*Update: This post was originally written in preparation for a hearing the House Natural Resources Committee held on April 8 on four anti-Endangered Species Act bills and has been updated in preparation for the full committee markup of these bills tomorrow (April 30).
They’re a tricky bunch, that’s for sure.
As I watched the bogus House Natural Resources Committee hearing a few weeks ago, led by Rep. Hastings (R-WA), I was stunned by the feigned sympathy he and his cohorts displayed for the Fish and Wildlife Service. According to Rep. Hastings and his crew, environmental groups are hurting the Service’s ability to do its job by suing it to enforce our nation’s laws. To hear it from these folks, they’d like nothing better than for the Service to have enough time and money to be able to help all the species that need it.
What’s funny is that Rep. Hastings and the other anti-ESA Members of the House Natural Resources Committee have done everything they can over the past couple of years to prevent the Service from doing its job to save imperiled species, including voting to slash its budget and wasting countless hours of its time on unnecessary distractions.
Case in point: the four GOP bills (H.R. 4315 – H.R. 4318) discussed at that hearing -- which will be marked up before the full committee tomorrow -- would actually burden the agency and squander its resources in a number of ways. Indeed, three out of the four bills would impose new statutory responsibilities on the Service without increasing their already-inadequate funds.
Another example: Rep. Hastings has been serving one subpoena after another on the Service, which the agnecy's Director Ashe says are “disruptive to [the] agency mission and expensive to the taxpayer.” The subpoena Rep. Hastings issued last month over bird protection laws required 125 agency employees to work 2,600 hours at a taxpayer cost of $150,000. As Director Ashe said, "[t]hese are the world's most highly trained wildlife law enforcement professionals, and right now they're sidelined while internationally syndicated criminal rings are decimating elephants, rhinos and other iconic species." And on April 7, Rep. Hastings served yet another subpoena on the Service regarding the listing of a flowering plant that will only waste more of the agency's time and money.
And if all of that doesn’t convince you of these Members' real motives, most of these folks voted, back in 2011, to ZERO the Service’s budget to protect species, providing them with money only to delist. Fortunately, champs like Reps. Dicks (D-WA), Hanabusa (D-HI), and Thompson (D-CA), squashed that attempt but had it passed I think it probably would have hurt the Service’s ability to do its job. Don’t you?
As the Service’s Michael Bean stated, none of the bills the Committee’s anti-ESA Members are pushing will do ANYTHING to help recover species. It’s all a hoax so the bill's supporters don’t have to voice their true feelings: they don’t give a darn about the Service’s ability to do its job and they don’t want any additional species put on the Endangered Species list. Such an opinion would be out of step with the American people – who love the Endangered Species Act and the imperiled critters it protects – and these Members know that all too well.