September Threats to the Endangered Species Act


As Members of Congress returned from August recess, they wasted no time continuing their assault on our nation’s imperiled creatures and the law that protects them.  Here’s a summary of the legislative attacks we saw during the month of September.

Utah Prairie Dogs

S. 1580 and H.R. 2973, companion bills introduced by Sen. Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Mattheson (R-UT), would allow the harming and killing of threatened Utah prairie dogs in Utah’s airports and cemeteries.  Utah prairie dogs are the most imperiled of our nation's prairie dogs species.

Courtesy of the National Park Service

Grizzly Bears

On 9/14, Rep. Labrador (R-ID) and Sen. Crapo (R-ID) introduced companion bills (H.R. 2929 and S. 1552) aimed at amending the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to permit people to harm or kill grizzly bears in self-defense situations.  These bills are redundant and completely unnecessary since the ESA already contains an exemption for instances in which people must harm or kill an animal in self-defense.  See 16 U.S.C. 1540.  Did the bill’s sponsors even read the law they’re proposing to amend?  My colleague, Louisa Wilcox, has written more on this here


 The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on the Endangered Species Compliance and Transparency Act (H.R. 1719) on 9/22.   The legislation, which was introduced by Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), would require federal power agencies to estimate and report the costs of complying with the ESA on their monthly bills to customers.  While the bill may sound innocuous, it would actually distort the costs of complying with the ESA by ignoring the immense benefits associated with fish and wildlife protection.  As such, it could create opposition towards the protection of imperiled fish and wildlife.  For more on this bill, see here.


Early this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a FY12 Agricultural Appropriations bill that slashes over $725 million in conservation funding from critical wildlife programs. For example, the bill slices funding in half for the Grasslands Reserve Program, which helps farmers protect and restore native grasslands and provide habitat for dwindling populations of grassland birds. The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, which helps landowners create wildlife habitat on working landscapes, faces a 41 percent cut.  In addition, the bill completely wipes out funding for the Voluntary Public Access Program, which encourages farmers to make their land accessible to the public for hunting, fishing and other wildlife-based recreational opportunities.

And that’s not the only bad news in this bill. While the bill cuts funding for programs that help wildlife, it actually restores funds for a program that hurts species—the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's Wildlife Services Agency. This program kills of tens of thousands of wolves, mountain lions, foxes, coyotes, and other animals every year via inhumane means like poisoning and trapping to benefit Big Agriculture.  The bill now moves to the Senate floor.