By Taylor Parker, contributing writer to Endangered Species Coalition.
Congressman Steve Pearce introduced a 200-page bill over a mouse. Representative Pearce said he is trying to bring jobs to his district by stripping the New Mexican Meadow jumping mouse of protections. He is trying to sneak his bill in as a rider to H.R. 5538, a bill meant for funding the Department of the Interior. Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma has a bill to ban listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken, Rep. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania wants to reduce protections for the Northern Long-eared Bat, and Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington has a bill to delist wolves. In fact, instead of actually focusing on building jobs or fixing infrastructure problems in their respective states, all of the authors of the 142 bills and riders harm, or strip protections from America’s wildlife in the 114th Congress.
In the last 5 years there has been a 600% increase on attacks on the Endangered Species Act. According to the Center for Biological Diversity’s research earlier this year, the 114th Congress has “dramatically increased its efforts to take away protections for species, and has set a record-breaking 87 attacks in 2015…and 42 attacks since 2016 started.” Between 1996 and 2011 there were approximately 70 attacks. Yet, from 2011 to 2016, there have been 227 attacks, more than 3 times the attacks in 5 years than seen in the previous 15. It’s scary and somewhat unbelievable– rare species in the US have never faced this kind of pressure legislatively.
In fact, according to the Center for American Progress, “every 2.5 minutes, the American West loses a football field worth of natural area to human development.” While this 600% increase of ESA attacks is occurring, the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse, Prairie Chickens, bats, wolves, and approximately two thousand other species in the United States are threatened with more development and serious pressures. Trying to carve out their existence in a continuously encroached upon land, these species don’t need our representatives mounting the unprecedented attack that they are, for the interests that they are, while ignoring critical discussions needed in Congress right now. One of the arguments you always hear is that environmental issues get in the way of progress and jobs. However, the current blockade toward progress is not the rare species that deserve protection but a wasted misdirection of valuable congressional time and energy.
Instead of valuing our country’s heritage of unique wildlife and wildlands for the genetic, ecological, and American treasures that they are, this Congress is threatening that heritage. Instead of focusing on protecting the open spaces that we still have, this Congress is trying to dismember one of the only Federal laws protecting our national heritages. Instead of focusing on other important issues such as veteran affairs, education, infrastructure, and child nutrition this Congress is spending an inordinate amount of time working backwards, attacking species that once gone are gone forever.
The New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse is so rare that it is listed as Endangered wherever it is found. It is only found in about 8 populations on this planet, all within Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. About 10 inches long, it is nocturnal, and can jump up to 6 feet in the air. Their young are born defenseless, blind, and deaf. Ecologically, they eat whatever they can find in the harsh environments they live and they provide an important food source for the foxes, owls, hawks, and snakes. Habitat destruction is its main threat.
If Congressman Steve Pearce succeeds, the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse will have nothing protecting it from habitat loss. Losing the protection it has under the Endangered Species Act could send the species down a perilous path toward extinction. The same could happen to the prairie chickens, the sea otters, the salmon, and all of the other species affected by a 600% increase in Endangered Species Act attacks pushed by this Congress. Our country’s living heritage deserves better and we as voters, citizens, and as a species deserve the respect of responsible representatives of our interests – not myopic and temporary business interests.