May/June 2012 Threats to the Endangered Species Act

kit fox.jpg


On May 10, the House passed an amendment to the 2013 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill (H.R. 5326) that would prevent restoration of the San Joaquin River and its historic salmon runs.  Specifically, the amendment, which was offered by Rep. Denham (R-CA), would prohibit the federal government from spending any money to reintroduce spring run Chinook salmon to the San Joaquin River—a requirement of the historic settlement agreement conservation groups, farmers, fishermen, and others entered into in 2006. The House also passed this amendment as part of the 2013 Energy and Water bill (H.R. 5325). For more on this, see Doug Obegi’s blog.

On the Senate side, Sen. Hagan (D-NC) offered an amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill (S.3240) that would exempt pesticides that are directly applied to waterbodies from having to be permitted under the Clean Water Act. Putting pesticides directly in our waters would not only have negative impacts on fish, including salmon, but it would also endanger human health. Fortunately, this amendment never came to a vote. For more on this, see Mae Wu’s blog.

Sea Turtles

The House passed an amendment to the 2013 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill (H.R. 5326), offered by Rep. Landry (R-LA), that prohibits the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from using funds to implement a rule requiring turtle excluder devices (TEDs) for fishing vessels. TEDs protect threatened and endangered sea turtles by reducing their accidental capture in fishing nets.  There is ample evidence that the proposed rule is necessary to stop the high levels of sea turtle mortality seen in the Southeast – namely, in 2011when more than 3,500 threatened and endangered sea turtles washed up dead in the Gulf and South Atlantic.

Endangered Species in General

Sen. Lee (R-UT) proposed an amendment (#2315) to the Farm bill (S.3240) that would completely eliminate federal protections for all endangered and threatened species that live within a single state’s border. On the chopping block would be iconic listed species like the polar bear in Alaska, the Florida panther, the San Joaquin kit fox in California, and the Maryland darter.

Sen. Vitter (R-LA) proposed an amendment (#2404) to the same appropriations bill that would mandate a number of onerous assessments of economic impacts before listing a species as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act or designating its critical habitat. Whether a species is endangered is, and should be, based solely on science. This amendment would also make it virtually impossible to protect species facing extinction on private lands, which is where about half of all endangered species reside.

Ultimately, neither amendment received a vote.

                                            (c) Fish and Wildlife Service 

Cuts to Wildlife Funding

The 2013 House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which passed out of full committee on June 28, slashes crucial programs that protect wildlife and habitat. In addition to the bill’s overall funding being cut by 4% from last year, the bill reduces the Fish and Wildlife Service’s budget by more than 20% and the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s land acquisition program by 80% below 2012 enacted levels. The cut to the Fish and Wildlife Service budget includes a 30% reduction in the program that protects new plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act, severely restricting efforts to protect more than 250 candidate species, many of which have awaited listing protection for years.


Not only does the 2013 House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill slash funding for wildlife, but the base bill also contains a rider that would force the Secretary of the Interior to make the decision on the delisting of the gray wolf in Wyoming – a state that is already planning extensive wolf killing programs once the species is delisted.

Endangered Species Act and Litigation Hearing

In their continued attempt to prove that the Endangered Species Act needs to be amended, the House Natural Resources Committee held an oversight hearing on the law on June 19. Once again Chairman Hastings (R-WA) claimed that the purpose of these hearings was to make the statute more effective. Somewhat hard to believe coming from someone who tried to ZERO funding for the protection of new endangered and threatened species and their habitat last year.