WASHINGTON— Citing the global extinction crisis, more than 150 groups urged Congress today to significantly increase the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s budget for endangered species conservation from $300 million to $704 million — an increase of more than $400 million over the fiscal year 2022 budget.
Today’s plea comes one day after the Democratic-controlled Congress released its omnibus budget, which undercut President Biden’s budget request and maintained inadequate status quo funding levels for our most imperiled species. For example, the bill would increase funding for the recovery of the nation’s 1,800 endangered species by just $3 million, while funding for the listing program would remain frozen at last year’s levels.
According to the Service’s own data, hundreds of endangered animals and plants receive less than $1,000 for their recovery in a typical year, with several hundred receiving no funding at all from the agency. The requested budget increase would ensure every federally protected species receives a minimum of $50,000 per year to get them on the road to recovery.
“Congress needs to do more than the bare minimum if it truly wants to stop extinction, and that starts with fully funding the Endangered Species Act,” said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ve already lost too many unique animals and plants to extinction. During a global extinction crisis, it’s heartbreaking that Congress continues to underfund this critical work.”
Today’s letter notes that “the majority of extinctions are entirely preventable, so when we lose a species to extinction it represents an unforgiveable moral failure. The U.S. has one of the most powerful tools to end extinction — the Endangered Species Act — yet decades of underfunding has kept it from realizing its full potential.”
“Red lights and alarms have to be going off right now as the extinction crisis and biodiversity loss threatens life on this planet. Yet, our nation’s strongest conservation tool, the Endangered Species Act, is starving for adequate funding,” said Mary Beth Beetham, legislative affairs director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Tragically, hundreds of species are being left at the brink of extinction simply because there isn’t enough money to recover them. Next year’s appropriations must reflect the dire straits of the crisis we face.”
The proposed funding package requests $78.7 million for the Service’s listing program — nearly four times the wildlife agency’s current budget. The listing program has been chronically underfunded for decades, and as a result, more than 400 animals and plant species have been waiting in most cases more than a decade to be reviewed for protections under the Endangered Species Act.
In 2021 the Service announced it would remove 22 animals and one plant from the endangered species list because those species had gone extinct. These species will now join the list of 650 species in the United States that have likely been lost to extinction. Globally, an additional 1 million animal and plant species face extinction within the coming decades.
Other groups signing today’s letter include the League of Conservation Voters, Earthjustice, Sierra Club and The Humane Society of the United States.