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U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, and he wants to overhaul the Endangered Species Act.

He uses the word “reform” to describe his intentions, but legions of his critics say he wants to gut the act that has protected more than 1,500 plants, insects, mammals, birds, reptiles and other creatures, according to published tallies.

Hastings and a dozen other kindred spirits, who formed the ESA Congressional Working Group, see the act as an excuse for lawsuits, with little success recovering species.

He opposed the listing of two plants found only in the Hanford Reach. The fight went on forever, with federal protection eventually prevailing, but only on federal property in his Eastern Washington district.

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“As we move into 2014, Hastings’ anti-science antics make it all the more clear how badly we need all these protections, none more than the Endangered Species Act …,” Noah Greenwald, of the Center for Biological Diversity, wrote for the Huffington Post.

Hastings wants to shift the ethic and leverage of the federal government to state and local authorities to protect endangered species. The transparently bad idea would mean no protections whatsoever in many areas.

Oregon’s U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio makes the point the best impediment to Hastings’ pinched vision is the U.S. Senate, which has no interest in tampering with something that works. DeFazio is the ranking member on the House resources committee.

In the queue for protection is the greater sage-grouse, which is found in 11 western states. The opposition and the themes of the opponents have not changed in four decades of similar battles.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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