July Threats to the Endangered Species Act


The House Interior and Environment Appropriations bill (H.R. 2584) took center stage last month, as debate raged over its over 38 anti-environmental riders. The base bill contained a number of provisions that would harm our nation’s wildlife, including one that would prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from protecting imperiled species, one that would harm bighorn sheep, and one that would shield gray wolf delistings from judicial review.

The amendment process for H.R. 2584 was full of ups and downs. On the downside, Rep. Calvert (R-CA) introduced an amendment during the Appropriations Committee markup that prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from mitigating the effects of harmful pesticides on endangered species (eg., salmon). Unfortunately, the amendment passed and is now part of the bill (section 447). Additionally, while Rep. Dicks (D-WA) attempted to strike the harmful wolf delisting provision (section 119) from the bill, his amendment ultimately failed.

These disappointments were somewhat offset by a big win: 37 Republicans joined all but 2 Democrats to pass an amendment offered by Rep. Dicks (D-WA) and co-sponsored by Reps. Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Thompson (D-CA) and Hanabusa (D-HI), to strike the “extinction rider,” a provision that would have increased the risk of extinction for imperiled species by blocking protections under the Endangered Species Act.

The debate surrounding the extinction rider made clear what the next threat to endangered species will be: defending the Endangered Species Act against Congressional attacks spurred by reauthorization. Following the vote on the Dicks-Thompson-Fitzpatrick-Hanabusa amendment, Rep. Hastings (R-WA), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, stated that his committee will examine the Endangered Species Act in an effort to reauthorize it this fall.  While we support the reauthorization of the Act, we are concerned that Rep. Hastings and others will use this process to attempt to weaken this landmark law.

The Interior Appropriations process also demonstrated that species specific attacks on the Endangered Species Act are far from over.  Indeed, over the last month, Reps. Pearce (R-NM) and Neugebauer (R-TX) said they planned to offer amendments delisting the lesser prairie chicken and dunes sagebrush lizard from the Endangered Species Act, and zeroing recovery money for the Mexican wolf (of which there only about 50 left in the wild). Fortunately, these amendments were not voted on.

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