The Sea Otter Research and Recovery Act (currently going by H.R. 556) was on the House suspension calender for today. This is basically the Congressional equivelent of a consent list, for non-controversial bills that are expected to pass with little fan fare.
Unfortunately, fan fare ensued when Republican House members balked at the bill. Their reasoning was that they would prefer to see a bill that focuses on the entire California coastal eco-system, rather than just sea otters.
I know this sounds logical–who doesn’t want to see the entire California coastal eco-system restored and conserved? We sure do. But the political reality is that a bill of that scope is unlikely to acheive its purpose, if it even makes it out of Congress alive.
A sea otter bill might sound incredibly specific and narrow in focus–but it’s not. Sea otters are a keystone species, which means that protections and assistance to sea otters provides umbrella protections throughout the ecosystem. It’s kind of like a pay-it-forward approach to marine conservation; improve the conditions for sea otters, and you get a lot more bang for your coastal ecosystem conservation buck.
Congressman Farr is a smart guy–I’m pretty sure that that’s why he introduced this bill in the first place; not JUST because sea otters are cute.
This isn’t the end of the line–but some work will need to be done to get this bill passed.