Interior Sec. Zinke Instructs Staff to End More than a Decade of Participation in Event
Washington, D.C.—The Endangered Species Coalition received word last week that the office of Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) to end further involvement and longstanding participation in Endangered Species Day, including the annual youth art contest associated with the event, which is scheduled for May 19 this year.
Endangered Species Day was first created by U.S. Senate in 2006, when it unanimously designated May 11, 2006 as the first ever “Endangered Species Day,” to encourage “the people of the United States to become educated about, and aware of, threats to species, success stories in species recovery, and the opportunity to promote species conservation worldwide.” The original resolution (S. Res. 431) was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA), and co-sponsored by another 14 Democratic and Republican Senators in 2006.
“We’re extremely disappointed to see Secretary Zinke pulling out of this decade-long educational effort to raise awareness about endangered species conservation,” said Brock Evans, president of the Coalition. “Combined with recent conservation rollbacks affecting wildlife on public lands, we’re concerned that this may indicate that the Trump administration simply does not care about protecting our nation’s imperiled wildlife. We hope that is not the case, but this is discouraging,” said Evans.
Endangered Species Day is the annual signature event of the Endangered Species Coalition, a national network of organizations and activists dedicated to protecting our nation’s disappearing wildlife and last remaining wild places. Since 2006, Endangered Species Day has been celebrated nationwide on the third Friday of May each year. The event has evolved over the years to include partnership with FWS and dozens of other organizations, businesses and agencies around the country. And recently other countries have joined in including Australia, Bahamas/Nassau, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, England, French Polynesia, India, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, Scotland, and Sweden.
In 2009 the Coalition created and incorporated a national youth art contest into the Endangered Species Day event. Each year, hundreds of students of all ages submit illustrations of their favorite endangered species to contest judges. The top winners in each age group were selected for the publication in the annual Endangered Species Art calendar, published by the FWS, and the grand prizewinner journeyed to Washington, D.C. on Endangered Species Day to meet the wildlife agency staff.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 was a landmark conservation law that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support: 92-0 in the Senate, and 394-4 in the House. Although some members of Congress are now seeking to weaken this safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction, recent public opinion research indicates that the law maintains broad, bipartisan, public support even today. The 2015 poll conducted by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of American voters across all political, regional and demographic boundaries support the Endangered Species Act. The Act has support of 96 percent of self-identified liberals and 82 percent of self-identified conservatives. And more than 70 percent of voters prefer endangered species decisions to be made by scientists, rather than by politicians in Congress.
“Because we know that Americans love endangered species, we are encouraging them to demonstrate their support by attending events, participating in activities or creating their own Endangered Species Day events,” stated Leda Huta, Executive Director of Endangered Species Coalition. “It is important that we show how truly bipartisan this issue is.”
For more information on how to participate in Endangered Species Day on May 19, 2017, please visit www.endangeredspeciesday.org.
UPDATE: The U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service called us this morning to inform us that their previous communication was a mistake. They will remain committed to Endangered Species Day. It is our hope that this will be the largest Endangered Species Day celebration ever with many Fish and Wildlife Service offices participating. Events can be found at EndangeredSpeciesDay.org.