Conservation Groups Aim to Thwart Congressional Attack on Endangered Species
Washington, DC – Representatives of conservation groups on Wednesday–along with Journey, the wolf mascot –delivered to lawmakers on Capitol Hill a letter opposing efforts to weaken protections for imperiled wildlife. The letter, which remains open, has already been signed by approximately 80 businesses expressing support for the Endangered Species Act and opposition to “any bill that would weaken protections for endangered species and their habitat.”
The letter delivery comes as lawmakers debate several, must-pass appropriations bills for 2018. A few specific policy riders that weaken the Endangered Species Act and block or remove protections for imperiled wildlife. A rider that would not only congressionally delist the Great Lakes and Wyoming wolves, but would also block any future lawsuits, even if these wolves once again become gravely imperiled, is among one of the most controversial proposals (House Interior Sec 116, Senate Interior Sec 120).
The letter reads, in part, “As American business owners, we encourage you to strongly support the Endangered Species Act. The Act has been successful in protecting the bald eagle, American alligator, Pacific salmon, humpback whale, brown pelican, as well as many other species. It also works to protect endangered species’ habitat, such as the mountains, river valleys, grasslands, wetlands, deserts, coastal beaches and other open spaces that we enjoy.”
The business letter follows the delivery of letters from 241 conservation groups, 31 U.S. Senators, and 104 U.S. Representatives – all opposing the inclusion of anti-wildlife riders on appropriations bills.
Under consideration in the FY 2018 House and Senate Interior/EPA appropriations bills are 12 riders that would undermine the Endangered Species Act, one of our nation’s most successful, popular laws and the law that saved our national symbol, the bald eagle, from extinction. These riders include attacks on protections for particular species including the greater sage grouse (House Interior Sec 113, Senate Interior Sec 114), the lesser prairie chicken (Senate Interior Sec 121), and potentially hundreds of other species (House Interior Sec 458). These riders also target key portions of the overall Endangered Species Act including interagency consultation requirements (Senate Interior Sec 431) and citizen enforcement of the Act (House Interior Sec 461), which limits attorney fees for successful plaintiffs in cases brought under the Endangered Species Act and other core environmental laws.
“Americans know that we have a responsibility to our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids to protect endangered species and the places they call home. They know the Endangered Species Act works, and they are incredibly worried that politicians in Congress are seeking to undermine this safety net for plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction,” stated Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition.
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). Although some members of Congress are now seeking to weaken this safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction, recent polling indicates that the law 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. Additionally, a 2012 study found that 90 percent of protected species are recovering at the pace expected in their scientific recovery plans.
“Not only is the Endangered Species Act our safety net for wildlife, plants, and fish, but it can also protect species critical to human health and wellbeing, such as bees and other pollinators,” said Huta. “Furthermore, the Act’s protection of biodiversity is critical for vulnerable communities which are often on the frontlines of environmental destruction and have the most to lose.”