Senate Republicans Take Aim at Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release

Senate Republicans Take Aim at Endangered Species Act

Proposed Legislation Would End Protections for More Than 800 Species, Gut Critical Habitat, Politicize Science

WASHINGTON - The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing today on eight Republican-sponsored bills attacking the Endangered Species Act, including one that would end federal protection for more than 800 endangered animals and plants around the country.

Several of the bills are nearly identical to legislation introduced by Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives last year that sought to limit public participation and citizen enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, and undermine the scientific basis for protection decisions for our nation's most imperiled wildlife. Two bills — one introduced by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and one introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. — would eliminate endangered species protections for hundreds of currently protected species and severely weaken habitat protections for many more.

“In the past four years Republicans have introduced more than 50 bills to weaken the Endangered Species Act and 100 bills going after individual species. Not a single one, though, would help save an endangered plant and animal,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Polls consistently show a majority of Americans, including many Republicans, support protecting endangered species. These kinds of bills may please rich campaign donors – especially those exploiting the planet for profits – but they’re way outside the mainstream.”

Among the bill’s in today’s hearing:

S. 855, Sen. Paul’s so called “Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act,” would eliminate all Endangered Species Act protections for species found only within one state. More than 800 endangered species, including all endangered species in Hawaii and Puerto Rico would lose federal protections if this bill were to pass. Another provision of this bill requires that all endangered species lose their protection every five years, after which they would only regain protection if Congress passes a joint resolution. No endangered species anywhere in the world has ever recovered in fewer than five years. The bald eagle took nearly 40 years to recover, as did the peregrine falcon and gray whale.

S. 112, Sen. Heller’s so-called “Common Sense in Species Protection Act of 2015,” would require the Fish and Wildlife Service to consider short-term economic costs when protecting critical habitat for endangered species and require the agency to exclude areas if the costs were deemed too high. If passed, such a bill would almost certainly reduce habitat protections for plants and animals. Research has shown that species with designated critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering than those species without designated habitat.

S. 292, introduced by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, would require that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service publish on the Internet all data used for an endangered species listing decision, including detailed maps that could lead to more illegal poaching or collecting.

S. 293, also introduced by Sen. Cornyn, would limit the ability of the Service to settle cases without allowing state governments to intervene and would limit the availability of attorney’s fees available under the Endangered Species Act. By changing the basic judicial rules on when parties can intervene in lawsuits, the Department of Justice will not be able to settle patently unwinnable cases, forcing it to waste taxpayer resources in futile litigation. By slowing down litigation, species will continue to wait in limbo for protection under the Act.

S. 736, introduced by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., would redefine the “best scientific data” to automatically include data provided by states, tribal governments or localities even if those data are in fact the most inaccurate, out-of-date data available. This bill would result in the Service using poorer data and making worse decisions regarding whether or not to protect endangered species, and would spur countless lawsuits arguing over what information qualifies as the best-available science.

The proposals in the last three bills were all introduced in the last Congress in the House of Representatives.

“Republicans seem to introduce crazier and crazier legislation just to establish their Tea Party credentials for their favorite funders — the Koch brothers and the American Petroleum Institute,” said Hartl. “It’s sad that they continue to attack our most vulnerable endangered wildlife rather than trying to find solutions — such as fully funding endangered species recovery activities — to benefit our environment and our wildlife. This latest spectacle in the Senate looks to be just the first of many wasted opportunities over the next two years.”

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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