Thursday, July 21, 2011

House Spending Bill Could Cripple Endangered Species Protections

The summer of 2011 is turning into a prolonged, multifrontal assault on America's imperiled species and the Endangered Species Act.  

Recently, we wrote about a plan by the State of Wyoming to allow for unlicensed and virtually unlimited hunting of wolves.  Less than a week after that news broke, the House Appropriations Committee gave the thumbs up to an Interior Appropriations Bill that would not only grant that disastrous plan exemption from judicial review but would effectively cripple the Endangered Species Act.

Under the proposed bill, de-listings of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes States and Wyoming would be conducted completely outside the watchful eye of the courts. This end-run around the democratic process would enable states and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to craft potentially flawed policy without recourse, undercutting our nation's system of checks and balances.

Another legislative proposal, or "rider", would bar the FWS from adding any new species to the Endangered Species List or granting critical habitat protections to species already protected under the Act. The so-called "Extinction Rider" would also prevent FWS from upgrading the status of struggling species from threatened to endangered. This proposal would preclude FWS from addressing the backlog of more than 260 species it's already determined warrant protections but are in the gray area of "candidate species" designation for lack of resources. Wolverines, Pacific Walrus and Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout would all slip closer to extinction under this plan.

Still more riders would effectively eliminate the ability of the Endangered Species Act to protect imperiled species from poisons such as pesticides and eliminate nearly all protections for the fewer than 8,000 bighorn sheep left in the United States.

Taken together, these riders constitute the most sweeping attempt to debilitate the Endangered Species Act in recent history. 

Representatives Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) have introduced an amendment to the bill to strike the "Extinction Rider". Please contact your Member of Congress today and urge that they vote in favor of the Dicks-Thompson Amendment to defend the Endangered Species Act.

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