WASHINGTON— With today’s release of President Biden’s first full budget, the administration signaled that stemming the wildlife extinction crisis and safeguarding the nation’s endangered species will not be a top priority, despite the warnings of scientists that one million species are at risk of going extinct around the world without intervention.
The Biden administration is proposing just $22 million — a mere $1.5 million above last year’s levels — to protect the more than 500 imperiled animals and plants still waiting for protection under the Endangered Species Act. It is at the same level as what was provided for in 2010.
The budget proposal increases funding for endangered species recovery by $18 million. While this represents a modest increase from last year’s budget, the Endangered Species Act has been severely underfunded for decades, resulting in species waiting years, or even decades, for protection and already-protected species receiving few dollars for their recovery.
Based on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own recovery plans, at least $2 billion per year is needed to recover the more than 1,700 endangered species across the country. The proposed budget fails to even come close to closing the gap in needed funding.
“It’s distressing that President Biden’s budget still ignores the extinction crisis,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “What’s especially tragic is that restoring abundant wildlife populations would also reap huge benefits in helping to stop the climate crisis, reduce toxic pollution and protect wild places. This was a missed opportunity.”
During the presidential campaign, President Biden touted his early support for the Endangered Species Act when the law was passed in 1973. In January President Biden launched a review of the Trump administration’s rollbacks of the regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act and decisions to weaken protections for the monarch butterfly, spotted owl and gray wolf.
To date, however, the Biden administration has not moved to alter or reverse any Trump-era policies or decisions related to endangered species. With today’s budget, President Biden is adopting the measly funding levels of the Trump administration.
Over the past year, more than 170 conservation groups have asked for additional funding for endangered species. This request echoes similar pleas from 121 members of the House of Representatives and 21 senators.
“Every year, more of our most distinctive animals and plants will vanish right before our eyes. Perhaps for the sake of his grandchildren, President Biden will reconsider this disastrous budget proposal,” said Hartl.
Around 650 U.S. plants and animals have already been lost to extinction. Some of the plants and animals that have been deemed extinct in the United States since 2000 include: Franklin’s bumblebee from California and Oregon; the rockland grass skipper and Zestos skipper butterflies from Florida; the Tacoma pocket gopher; the Alabama sturgeon; the chucky madtom, a small catfish from Tennessee; a wildflower named Appalachian Barbara’s buttons; and the Po’ouli, a songbird from Maui. Scientists estimate that one-third of America’s species are vulnerable to extinction and 12,000 species nationwide are in need of conservation action.