Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A black-footed ferret in Colorado

A black-footed ferret roams an outdoor pen in northern Colorado on October 29, 2013. (Photo: Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

New Bill Would Require Biden to Declare Wildlife Extinction Crisis a National Emergency

"Declaring the extinction crisis to be a national emergency would unlock key presidential powers that will halt the unraveling of the planet’s life-support systems."

Jake Johnson

Democratic members of Congress introduced legislation Friday that would require President Joe Biden to declare the wildlife extinction crisis a "national emergency," a move advocates say would allow the president to use specific executive powers to stem the destruction of habitats and protect species imperiled by human activity.

"Day by day, the number of animals in the U.S. facing extinction grows, creating a national emergency that needs to be addressed."
—Rep. Marie Newman

Led by Reps. Marie Newman (D-Ill.) and Jesús "Chuy" García (D-Ill.), the Extinction Crisis Emergency Act would "require all federal agencies to prioritize building back health wildlife populations, protect critical habitat, and integrate climate change concerns into the recovery of endangered species."

The legislation, unveiled with nine original House co-sponsors, would also "provide supplemental funding for agencies to develop recovery plans and designate habitats for endangered species," and "establish potential trade penalties on nations that are not making significant efforts to end" illegal wildlife trade or deforestation.

"The devastating effects of climate change pose an immediate threat to our surrounding wildlife," Newman said in a statement. "Day by day, the number of animals in the U.S. facing extinction grows, creating a national emergency that needs to be addressed. Investing in the health of our wildlife is an urgent priority. Through the Extinction Crisis Emergency Act, wildlife can begin flourishing again in their natural homes and habitats."

A comprehensive and startling United Nations report released in 2019 warned that humanity's exploitation of the natural world has pushed a million plant and animal species across the globe to the brink of extinction. In 2018, the National Wildlife Federation, the American Fisheries Society, and the Wildlife Society estimated that as many as a third of U.S. wildlife species are at growing risk of extinction.

Applauding House Democrats' new bill as a crucial step in the right direction, Stephanie Kurose of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said that "the president has many tools at his disposal to halt the extinction crisis, but he needs to use them."

"The extinction crisis is a real threat to our well-being and even our survival, and Rep. Newman's legislation provides the right road map of powerful actions needed to stop the heartbreaking decline of animals and plants," said Kurose. "Declaring the extinction crisis to be a national emergency would unlock key presidential powers that will halt the unraveling of the planet's life-support systems, including pollination, air purification, and disease regulation."

In a report last year titled Saving Life on Earth: A Plan to Halt the Global Extinction Crisis (pdf), CBD put a national emergency declaration at the top of a list of 10 actions the U.S. president can take to protect wildlife. According to CBD, roughly 650 U.S. plant and animal species have been lost to extinction.

"Declaring a national emergency," the report notes, "would compel all federal agencies to stop ignoring the impacts to the environment that their actions continue to inflict upon the world and would allow the United States to use its economic influence to address everything from deforestation in the tropics and pollution disproportionately affecting disadvantaged communities in the United States to fighting illegal wildlife trade that is sanctioned by governments and corporations."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

EPA's Environmental Justice Office 'Won't Make Up for' Manchin Deal, Campaigner Says

"We've seen a lot of structural changes on environmental justice in the Biden, Obama and Clinton administrations, but we need to see the results," said Wes Gobar of the Movement for Black Lives.

Julia Conley ·


Historic Tropical Storm Fiona Sweeps Homes Into Ocean in Eastern Canada

"Climate change leads to warmer ocean water at higher latitudes," said one Canadian civil engineering professor. "A warmer future increases the probability that more intense storms will reach Canadian coasts."

Julia Conley ·


Federal Judge Allows 'Untenable' Plan to Send Juvenile Inmates to Angola Prison

"The move defies all common sense and best practices, and it will cause irrevocable damage to our youth and families," said one children's advocate.

Julia Conley ·


'Catastrophic': Arizona Judge Allows 1864 Abortion Ban to Go Into Effect

"No archaic law should dictate our reproductive freedom," said one rights advocate.

Julia Conley ·


US Progressives Express Solidarity With Iranian Protesters After Death of Mahsa Amini

"The right to choose belongs to us all, from hijabs to reproductive care," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo