May/June/July 2014 Legislative Threats to the Endangered Species Act


When I think summer, I think popsicles, swimming pools, and, since I live in DC, stifling humidity. The House Natural Resources Committee Republicans think: last chance to gut the Endangered Species Act before August recess and elections.

Cue the recent House passage of the hilariously named “21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act” (H.R. 4315). As I’ve blogged before, this bill (which is an amalgamation of H.R. 4315, H.R. 4316, H.R. 4317, and H.R. 4318) would undermine the scientific process when it comes to decision-making under the Endangered Species Act; overburden the federal agencies that implement the Act like the Department of Interior, thereby preventing them from doing their job of saving species; and dissuade citizens from enforcing the Endangered Species Act.

The House also passed H.R. 4899 at the end of June, which puts energy development above everything else, including our endangered species by, among other things, aggressively leasing and drilling on federal lands without any consideration of the impacts to endangered or threatened plants and animals. And H.R. 4742, which would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) by going after bedrock laws including the Endangered Species Act.

Summer also means appropriations time. And since Republicans took control of the House, appropriations time means scores of unrelated policy riders on bills. This summer was no different with over 50 anti-environmental riders, including many that would do damage to wildlife. For instance, riders in the Interior Appropriations bill (H.R. 5171) offered by Rep. Calvert (R-CA) would block current efforts to restrict the trade of illegal elephant ivory; prevent listing of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle under the Endangered Species Act; bar work focused on the potential listing of the greater sage grouse and the Gunnison sage-grouse under the ESA; and undermine the Interior Department’s efforts to recover certain types of endangered frogs. This bill hasn’t gone anywhere yet.

                                                         (C) Teddy Llovet

The Senate Defense Authorization bill also includes a provision (section 353) that exempts the Navy from both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act when it comes to sea otters off two military bases in California. Southern sea otters were nearly exterminated for their fur in the 1700s and 1800s. The California population has grown from of a group of just 50 survivors in Big Sur to approximately 2,000 today, but they still aren’t fully recovered and they need help. The military, like everyone else, should have to minimize its impacts on the species to the extent practicable, as the law states in order to pitch in on this recovery effort. This bill hasn’t moved yet either.

It looks like we'll have our work cut out for us when recess is over!