Twenty-four. That is the number of bills attacking the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that have been introduced to the House and Senate in the past four months. While these bills range in depth and consequences, the message is clear: America’s threatened and endangered species are under attack. A flurry of bills attempting to weaken the ESA is nothing new; quite contrarily, it is to be expected to a degree. However, something feels different this time around—as if those bills previously shrugged off as impossible might have a fighting chance in this current political cycle—leaving an unsettling feeling.
To give a taste of what is to come, two bills are worth further examination: Senate bill S.935 and its House counterpart H.R.2134, also known as the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act. This Act aims to amend both the ESA and Migratory Bird Treaty Act under the guise of modernization and improvement when in actuality, the Act’s real goal is to decrease federal protection for threatened and endangered species in order to appease the private sector. How is this being done? By making it exceedingly more difficult for species to be listed, and remain listed, under the ESA.
Currently, under the ESA, the Secretary of Interior determines whether a species is threatened or endangered, and therefore in need of federal protection. Under the proposed bills, the Secretary would no longer be able to make this determination without consent of the Governor of each State in which the threatened or endangered species is present. As if this was not enough of a roadblock to federal protection, the proposed bill then calls for congressional approval before listing a species as threatened or endangered. If a threatened or endangered species eventually found itself with federal protection, it would be short lived as this bill also calls for species to be automatically removed from the threatened or endangered species list after 5 years—a completely arbitrary and not scientifically based number.
It is already a lengthy and burdensome procedure for species to be listed as either threatened or endangered in the United States. If the proposed bill amending the listing process were to be enacted, the opportunity for species to gain, and actually benefit from, federal protection would dwindle significantly. If Americans truly want to help, protect, and preserve threatened and endangered species we must speak out and oppose proposed legislation such as the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act before it is too late. Please contact your senators and representative and ask that they oppose these bills and any legislation that would weaken the Endangered Species Act.