Barrasso to Attack Endangered Species Act in Senate Hearing

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Barrasso to Attack Endangered Species Act in Senate Hearing

Congressional Republicans Continue Groundless Challenges to Successful, Popular Environmental Law

WASHINGTON - Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is becoming more desperate in his efforts to undermine the Endangered Species Act — this time inviting state wildlife officials to comment on how the law could be weakened to fit their needs.

Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is holding a hearing Wednesday as part of a broader effort by congressional Republicans — under the false banner of “modernization” — to repeal federal protections provided by several environmental laws. In reality putting more wildlife management power into state hands would undo much of the progress that has been made in recovering endangered species.

“Senator Barrasso’s talk about modernizing the Endangered Species Act is just a smokescreen for a vicious attack on this vital conservation law,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These perennial assaults on the Act are completely out of step with the overwhelming majority of voters. Most Americans support protections for endangered species because they know the law has saved amazing animals like the humpback whale and bald eagle.”  

The Endangered Species Act has been more than 99 percent effective at saving species under its protection from extinction and has put hundreds more on the road to recovery. Despite this wild success, Senator Barrasso has voted against the Act 11 times since 2011, and has sponsored eight separate legislative attacks on the Act in the past two years alone.

Wednesday’s hearing will examine the role of states in the conservation of imperiled plants and animals. States have primary responsibility to protect wildlife within their territories, and it is only after a state fails to properly manage a species that federal protections from the Act are triggered.

Although most states have laws to protect endangered species, in the vast majority of cases — like in Barrasso’s own Wyoming — these laws do not actually protect critical habitat that endangered species need to survive, rendering them ineffective. Most states also have very limited programs for monitoring or carrying out conservation actions for endangered species, and to the extent they do, they are largely funded by federal dollars.  

“False claims about the Endangered Species Act’s effectiveness denigrate underfunded scientists trying to save imperiled wildlife on a shoestring,” Hartl said. “Rather than continuing these mean-spirited and disingenuous attacks, Senator Barrasso and other Senate Republicans should fully fund the Act so more species can be saved from extinction.”

Lack of funding for endangered species recovery is an acute problem, with many species receiving less than $10,000 each year for their conservation. Rather than fully funding the law so it can recover species at a faster rate, Congress has launched more than 256 legislative attacks against the Act since 2011, including 24 attacks in the first months of the 115th Congress. The frequency of these attacks continues to increase despite the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans want the 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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