Saperstein: ‘Today's Ark Remains Intact'
WASHINGTON, May 9, 1997 - In a statement released today, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, welcomed this week's vote by the House of Representatives which rejected efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, saying that "today's ark remains intact, despite cynical efforts by some to reduce protections for God's most vulnerable works." "I hope the defeat of H.R. 478 signals a strong reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act this session," Rabbi Saperstein added.
The full text of Rabbi Saperstein's statement follows:
In the first major environmental vote of the 105th Congress, the House of Representatives took a bold step in demonstrating a commitment to protect endangered species. On behalf of the Reform Jewish Movement, which has proudly worked in coalition with the environmental community and other religious denominations to protect God's endangered creatures, I commend the House for its commitment to protect endangered species. By rejecting H.R. 478, a cynical and misguided bill sponsored by Reps. Wally Herger (R-CA) and Richard Pombo (R-CA), the House, we hope, set a welcome tone for strong and sensible environmental protection for the rest of the session.
The authors of H.R. 478, supported by many of the most notorious slashers of environmental protections, sought to link the recent floods in California to the state's adherence to the Endangered Species Act and would have waived the Endangered Species Act for almost any flood control-related activities. Fortunately, a bipartisan majority of representatives did not buy into the false choice between the needs of species and human well-being. They struck a responsible balance between ensuring human safety amid the tragedy of massive flooding and protecting habitats for species who lie at the brink of extinction by passing Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Vic Fazio's (D-CA) amendment to limit the activities defined necessary for the maintenance of flood controls. When this occurred, the bill was dropped by its authors.
Clearly, puncturing a hole in the Endangered Species Act was the goal of H.R. 478, not ensuring the safety of humans from threat of floods. I am glad today's ark remains intact, despite cynical efforts by some to reduce protections for God's most vulnerable works.
Besides responsible maintenance of flood controls, other activities can reduce the severity of floods. Limiting development in flood-prone areas, protecting valuable wetlands areas, and eliminating clear-cutting would be an achievable start with wide-reaching benefits. Not surprisingly to those of us who appreciate the interdependence of humanity and nature, all these activities reduce the dangers of flooding and protect endangered species.
I hope the defeat of H.R. 478 foreshadows a strong reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act this session. That, not the disingenuous and misleading bill defeated this week, would truly honor humanity's responsibility to serve as stewards of God's creation.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis .