January & February 2016 Legislative Updates on the Endangered Species Act


(C) Fish and Wildife Service

As I've written before, the Sportsmen's Act contains a lot of provisions we don't like such as one that would further weaken the Environmental Protection Agency's authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act to regulate hazardous substances - including lead, a potent and dangerous neurotoxin - released by sport fishing waste. Unfortunately, the Senate bill (S. 659) was amended in Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on January 20 to make it even worse by adding a provision to the bill via amendment that would delist gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and prohibit judicial review of that decision.

The House version of the bill (H.R. 2406) - which is even more environmentally harmful than the Senate version and is thus opposed by more than 60 environmental groups - was voted on by the full House in late February. During floor consideration of the bill, legislators voted on a bunch of amendments which - you guessed it - made the bill even WORSE! For example, Rep. Ribble (R-WI) offered the same gray wolf amendment described above, which passed. And Rep. Young (R-AK) offered an amendment, which also passed, to prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service from restricting certain hunting practices on Alaska's national wildlife refuges and national preserves, such as the use of traps or bait in bear hunting, hunting wolves and coyotes during denning season, and hunting bear cubs or bear sows with cubs. There were also good amendments offered by folks like Reps. Huffman (D-CA), Lowenthal (D-CA), and Beyer (D-VA), but of course they were voted down.

Late January also saw the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012) hit the Senate floor. There were almost 400 amendments filed to the bill, including one that would remove ESA protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes (do I sound like a broken record or what?); one that would prohibit an endangered listing for the northern long-eared bat, which has suffered declines in 99% of its core range; one that would undermine critical protections for Mexican gray wolves, the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in North America; and one that would gut core ESA protections and threaten national species survival plans by preventing citizens from enforcing the essential protections of the ESA. Fortunately, none of the anti-ESA amendments were voted on before the Senate abandoned the bill . . . but it looks like it may be coming back in March.