Spending Bill Delivers Endangered Species Act Victory! (And Oct. - Dec. 2015 Legislative Update on the Endangered Species Act)

Credit: © Gunnar Ries

The biggest legislative news on the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") since this fall came just yesterday as Congress released its omnibus spending bill for 2016 (H.R. 2029).

Over a dozen anti-ESA provisions were on the table during the lengthy negotiations on this bill, including ones that would have prevented the listing of imperiled species like the Sonoran desert tortoise and six species of endangered mussels, and removed protections for currently-listed species like gray wolves, northern long-eared bats, and lesser prairie chickens. An elephant ivory rider, which would have blocked past and future U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's efforts to crack down on the U.S. illegal ivory trade, was also removed from the bill!

While no new anti-ESA riders were included in the spending bill, unfortunately some of the bad riders in previous appropriations bills remain. For example, Congress has once again blocked ESA protections for two species of imperiled sage-grouse. The bill also encourages fossil fuel production by lifting the longstanding oil export ban, which isn't good news for endangered species.

In other ESA legislative news, the House Natural Resources Committee marked up the SHARE or "Sportsmen's" Act (H.R. 2406) in October, which we oppose for a host of reasons including the fact that it would halt USFWS efforts to eradicate the illegal ivory trade and prevent the government from protecting the public and environment from toxic lead used in ammunition or fishing equipment. A Senate hearing on the bill is expected in early 2016. And a provision was added to the "FAST" Act (H.R. 22), which passed both chambers, that would allow bridge work to be done despite the presence of nesting swallows in certain situations (see Section 1439).

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