Species Act May Chill Seattle's Growth

August 25, 1998

It would be ironic if Seattle -- one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the U.S. -- were the first big U.S. city confronted with the stringent requirements of the Endangered Species Act. But that might happen if the National Marine Fisheries Service puts the local Chinook salmon, which has been in decline, on the endangered species list.

  • Although no one knows just how expensive it would be to comply with ESA regulations in the case of the salmon, a U.S. Forest Service economist has estimated that saving owl habitats cost each U.S. family about the price of a pizza.
  • A threatened or endangered listing would cover an area 70 miles in any direction from Seattle -- a region with a population of about 3 million and about 60 percent of the state's employment, personal income and gross product.
  • ESA-related costs can reach into the billions, even in sparsely populated areas.
  • New regulations -- which would affect the cost and availability of new homes in the area -- could be felt as early as next year, just as Seattle's economy is expected to cool.

Timber industry sources estimate that saving habitat for owls -- through designated "owl circles" where logging is banned -- has cost 22,500 timber and paper mill jobs in five Western states. Rules and regulations to save the salmon would, among other things, jack up the price of new single-family homes, the average price of which is already in excess of $300,000 in the area.

Source: Jim Christie, "Species Act May Chill Seattle's Growth," Investor's Business Daily, August 25, 1998.

 

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