Washington, D.C. – Today the House of Representatives voted and passed an Omnibus appropriations bill that largely rejected new policy provisions or amendments that would have weakened the Endangered Species Act. The bill’s release follows weeks of intense pressure from conservation groups on behalf of imperiled wildlife and late-night negotiations in the House and Senate.
The working draft of the FY 2018 House and Senate Interior/EPA appropriations bills had included 12 riders that would have undermined the Endangered Species Act, one of our nation’s most successful and popular laws. The law is credited with saving our national symbol, the bald eagle, from extinction along with numerous other species, including the American alligator, humpback whale, and the brown pelican.
The riders included attacks on protections for particular species. They also targeted key portions of the overall Endangered Species Act including interagency consultation requirements and citizen enforcement of the Act. Another rider would have not only congressionally delisted the Great Lakes and Wyoming wolves, but it would have also blocked any future lawsuits, even if these wolves once again become gravely imperiled.
“Members of Congress acted on behalf of our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids by voting to protect endangered species and the places they call home. They know the Endangered Species Act works, and they rejected many of the original efforts to undermine this safety net for plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction,” stated Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition.
Dozens of groups, including the Endangered Species Coalition, and their supporters, maintained a steady drumbeat targeting lawmakers on Capitol Hill to support the Endangered Species Act. The groups called on Congress to oppose any policy riders that would weaken protections for endangered species and their habitat. Thousands of voters reached out to Congress to reinforce this message and express their deep support for wildlife.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 was a landmark conservation law that passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support (92-0 in the Senate, and 394-4 in the House). Polling over the past decade indicates this Act maintains strong, bipartisan, public support even today.
More than 1,300 imperiled species of plants, fish and wildlife in the United States have been protected by the Endangered Species Act, and only ten have gone extinct, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (Most of those were already extinct or functionally extinct by the time they were put on the list.) Additionally, a 2012 study found that 90 percent of protected species are recovering at the pace expected in their scientific recovery plans.
The spending bill was not a perfect piece of legislation, according to conservationists. It forbid the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing sage grouse and partially overturned a court decision pertaining to agency consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, it appropriated funds for the border wall, which would impact wildlife and humans.
“We did not get everything that we wanted for wildlife. But there is no question that the U.S. Congress listened to the desires of their constituents, stripped many of the worst anti-wildlife provisions out of the bill and defended the Endangered Species Act. It should be clear by now that the Act not only protects species, but it is also critical to protecting human health and wellbeing,” stated Huta.
The Endangered Species Coalition is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to stop the human-caused extinction of our nation’s at-risk species, to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery. The Endangered Species Coalition works to safeguard and strengthen the Endangered Species Act, a law that enables every citizen to act on behalf of threatened and endangered wildlife—animals, fish, plants, and insects—and the wild places they call home.