Note: Organizational contact name and email will not appear on the letter.
The Honorable _____
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator _____:
On behalf of the undersigned organizations and our members, we write to express our strong support for the Endangered Species Act. The Act faces unprecedented threat. Using misleading words such as “update,” “modernize,” or “reform,” the Act’s opponents ultimately seek to undermine its core principles, gut its scientific basis, and abandon its common-sense approach to conserving imperiled wildlife.
The Endangered Species Act is our nation’s most effective law for protecting wildlife and plants in danger of extinction. Thanks to its effectiveness, more than 99 percent of the nearly 1,800 U.S. animals and plants protected by it have been saved from extinction. Today, our children and grandchildren can still see bald eagles, American alligators, brown pelicans, Channel Island foxes, stellar sea lions, Tennessee purple coneflowers, and humpback whales in the wild thanks to the Act. The Endangered Species Act works.
The Endangered Species Act is extremely effective because it relies on a foundation of peer-reviewed, best available science in its listing, consultation, recovery and delisting decisions. This reliance on rigorous science ensures that the implementing agencies can successfully prevent extinction and conserve species’ habitat. Recovery cannot occur without making sure that animals and plants have places to live. Protecting the habitat of endangered animals and plants from human-caused threats ensures that species can establish enough populations to maintain genetic diversity and survive catastrophic events that may threaten any one population.
Like many environmental laws, the Act also allows citizens to engage and participate in its implementation. Scientific studies have shown that citizen-initiated petitions to protect animal and plant species are commonly targeted toward species that are under the greatest level of biological threat, and which have not yet been identified by the federal government as needing protections. And in the instances where the government fails to use the best available science, the law allows for citizen suits to ensure that implementation meets the high standards of the Act.
The Endangered Species Act is a profoundly popular law that represents fundamental American principles. Polling over the past ten years has consistently shown that overwhelming majorities of American voters across party lines support the Endangered Species Act. The most recent poll shows that 90 percent of voters support the Endangered Species Act, including 96 percent of self-identified liberals and 82 percent of self-identified conservatives.
The Endangered Species Act helps to maintain the foundations of life for the American people and their families. By protecting healthy communities of plants and animals, it provides key ecosystem services and benefits including clean air, clean water, food, pollination, and medicines. And by preserving millions of acres of forests, wetlands and beaches threatened by environmental degradation and destruction, the Act helps to protect vulnerable human communities from environmental challenges.
The conservation and restoration of animal and plant communities can also help mitigate and reduce the impacts of climate change. Studies show that areas replete with biodiversity are more resilient to events caused by climate change. These events—more frequent hurricanes, larger storm surges, and increased flooding—destroy homes, properties, and even lives. When plant and animal communities are intact, vulnerable human communities are more likely to be better protected from these impacts and to better adapt after impact. Furthermore, vulnerable communities rely on safe and healthy ecosystems for subsistence farming, hunting, and fishing for their families. And all communities rely on wild pollinators for food and nature for the development of medicines. While people of means can move to a cleaner environment that is rich in biodiversity, the most vulnerable among us—particularly those who live in frontline or sacrifice zone communities—face many more challenges when moving; they have fewer options for escape. Vulnerable communities suffer the effects of climate change first and worst.
Despite the Endangered Species Act’s tremendous success and popularity, it is under threat from industry groups and other wildlife opponents. A small yet vocal sector of the regulated community seeks to undermine and weaken the core principles of the Act, just so they can improve their bottom line. We cannot allow the Act to be weakened under the guise of soft-sounding catch phrases such as “reforms” or “tweaks.”
We ask you to support the Endangered Species Act and oppose any bill, rider or other policy proposal that weakens protections for endangered species and habitat. Given the hostile record of the current Congress to the ESA, efforts to rewrite this law would prove disastrous for imperiled wildlife and should be strongly opposed. Instead, we urge you to seek full funding and comprehensive implementation of the Act. The endangered species budget peaked in 2010 and has declined since then, even as more species are added to the endangered species list. Thus, neither the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nor the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have sufficient funding to recover species.
We owe it to our children and grandchildren to be good stewards of the planet and leave behind a legacy of protecting endangered species and the special places they call home. Your position gives you a unique opportunity to support the Endangered Species Act, its programs, and its benefits. We strongly urge you to not support legislative efforts to rewrite or diminish this incredibly effective law.