National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
According to the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition (NESARC) they are "a broad based coalition of roughly 150 member organizations, representing millions of individuals across the United States, that is dedicated to bringing balance back to the Endangered Species Act. [Their] membership includes rural irrigators, municipalities, farmers, electric utilities and many other individuals and organizations that are directly affected by the ESA." 
The Chairman of NESARC is James McClure who was described in a Salt Lake Tribune article as "A former Senator (R-ID), McClure is now part of the Washington lobbying and consulting firm McClure, Gerard and Neuenschwander. This firm helped write the federal law on storing radioactive waste and has been paid more than $1 million to lobby Congress to support dumping spent nuclear reactor fuel in Utah." 
Founded in 1991, the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition (NESARC) is an industry front group whose goal is to "reform" protections under the Endangered Species Act, making them more industry friendly.
NESARC's methods of "balancing" the Endangered Species Act include lobbying, "supporting" Congressional members who favor weakening the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and running a media and public relations campaign for ESA rollbacks.
NESARC has strong ties to Van Ness Feldman, a lobbying group they paid $80,000 in 2000 and $80,000 in 1999, and to McClure, Gerard & Neuenschwander Inc (NESARC Chairman James McClure's firm), whom they paid $80,000 in 2000. These groups represent gas, mining, utility and oil interests. 
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), "NESARC's offices are located just one floor down from the Washington, DC lobbying offices of Van Ness Feldman. Though separated by a floor, the two organizations share a fax number - Van Ness Feldman's other clients include a wide array of petroleum and utility companies, National Wetlands Coalition- a similar "astroturf" anti-wetland protection group, and other resource and development corporations. Former Idaho Republican Senator James McClure's firm represents mining, agriculture, irrigation, and power companies, including the National Mining Association (represented by McClure himself) and controversial mining companies such as Placer Dome and Battle Mountain Gold (Washington Representatives, 1999)."
In addition, the EWG states, "the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition:
- Supports Rep. Don Young's H.R. 3160, introduced in October 1999, which is billed as "Common Sense Protections for ESA". The bill requires an economic analysis before listing a species, including calculations of "costs to the private sector", would allow damaging activity to proceed under certain circumstances, would limit citizen suits against ESA violators, and would generally weaken ESA enforcement and provisions.
- Believes the ESA does not "properly balance the nation's goal of protecting endangered species with the national goals of continued economic growth, the provision of water, electricity, and other basic services and the recognition of private, state and local property rights" and believe the ESA is having "an increasingly adverse impact on power development and transmission projects and on the development of private property." (NESARC memo, February 10, 1992, signed by David Mazour).
- NESARC apparently drafted ESA-damaging legislation at the behest of Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA). NESARC made the news in 1995 when Public Citizen filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee against Gorton, alleging that the Senator asked industry lobbyists to draft a major gutting of the ESA. Robert Szabo, the attorney who represents NESARC, confirmed that NESARC acted at Sen. Gorton's direction: "Senator Gorton laid out his thoughts to us, he asked our help and we gave it to him." Gorton in turn told The New York Times, "I'm perfectly willing to get the free services of good lawyers in drafting my views." In the previous election cycle, Gorton had received campaign contributions from NESARC member PACs and from NESARC's Washington law firm, Van Ness Feldman. Van Ness Feldman, NESARC's host firm, was the lobbying outfit actually credited with writing the controversial Gorton bill (The New York Times, April 12, 1995 and Public Citizen News Release, April 27, 1995). Soliciting draft legislation from non-staff members is against Senate ethics rules." 
The list of over 100 members includes utilities, mining, hydropower, and development groups with a financial interest in seeing the Endangered Species Act weakened. As of January 2004 members include the:
- American Farm Bureau Federation
- American Petroleum Institute
- American Public Power Association
- Colorado River Energy Distributors Association
- Edison Electric Institute
- Mid-West Electric Consumers Association
- National Association of Counties
- National Association of Home Builders
- The National Grange
- National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
- National Water Resources Association
- Northwest Horticultural Council
- Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association
The full NESARC Membership List is available at http://www.nesarc.org/memlst.htm.
1050 Thomas Jefferson Street
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: (202) 333-7481
Fax: (202) 338-2416
E-mail: nesarc AT vnf.com
- Christopher Smith, "Private Fuel Storage Pays Senator Turned Lobbyist Handsomely", The Salt Lake Tribune, April 23, 2003.