Senate Republicans Attack Scientific Foundation of Endangered Species Act

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Senate Republicans Attack Scientific Foundation of Endangered Species Act

Proposed Legislation Part of Broad GOP Anti-science Agenda

WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans have introduced legislation to directly undermine one of the most basic aspects of the Endangered Species Act: reliance on the best available science to determine what animals or plants need federal protections. 

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) introduced Senate Bill 735, which would automatically deem any and all information submitted by a state, tribal or county government as the best available science — even if that information is, in fact, outdated, incorrect, contradictory or not supported by peer review.

Senator Barrasso, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has sponsored or cosponsored at least eight bills attacking the Endangered Species Act since 2015 and voted against the Act nearly a dozen times since 2011.

“This cynical bill will not help a single species avoid extinction or get one step closer to recovery, but it will make it much harder for species on the brink of extinction to get the protection they desperately need from the Endangered Species Act,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This bill arbitrarily dictates what constitutes best available science and would allow states hostile to the Act to submit false or misleading information to avoid species getting needed protections.”

The Endangered Species Act requires the use of “best available science,” including the use of state, tribal and county data — as long as it actually constitutes the best science available. However, to define such data as always constituting best available science is fundamentally anti-science and would almost certainly serve to exclude or override more accurate and better vetted data.

“Senator Barrasso’s bill is just another example of how congressional Republicans, as well as the administration, are seeking to undermine the use of science in policy-making across the entire federal government,” Hartl said. “This is nothing more than a deeply cynical attempt to gut the Endangered Species Act.”

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Since Republicans retook the House of Representatives in January 2011, they have launched more than 233 legislative attacks on endangered species. The 115th Congress has already introduced 20 attacks on the Act since January — averaging one bill every four days.

These attacks continue despite the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans want the Endangered Species Act strengthened or left unchanged by Congress, according to a 2015 poll.

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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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