Groundhog Day for Gray Wolves, Endangered Species

If reading the headline, “Congress attacks Endangered Species Act,” gives you déjà vu, there’s good reason. Since the start of the Trump administration, Congress has introduced more than 100 individual bills and amendments that would weaken this cornerstone wildlife conservation law, risking the future of iconic species like gray wolves, polar bears, and humpback whales, and threatening the balance of fragile natural systems that we humans need to survive. 

Christopher Michel

In case Congress needs reminding, we are currently facing a devastating sixth mass extinction. It’s estimated that one in six species will be extinct by the end of the century. The last thing our leaders in government should be doing is working to undermine our most effective law for protecting threatened and endangered wildlife. Yet some members of Congress are relentless in doing just that.

In the latest string of attacks on our nation’s natural heritage, the Congressional Western Caucus has put forth the “Expanded Wildlife Extinction Package,” a suite of nine bills that would weaken the Endangered Species Act by undermining the role of science in listing decisions, limiting citizens’ ability to enforce the law, and making it harder for species to gain protections in the first place. (For a description of each of the bills, see this letter signed by 52 environmental groups opposing the package.) The House Natural Resources Committee is holding a legislative hearing on the bills this week.

The Committee is also marking up an extreme bill that would remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the entire contiguous United States, despite the fact that they have only just begun to recover and occupy a mere fraction of their historic range. What’s more, the bill would prohibit judicial review of this hasty, far-reaching decision, making it impossible for citizens to challenge. Judicial review is an essential tool that allows citizens to ensure adequate implementation of the law. For instance, a U.S. District Court ruled this week to restore vital Endangered species Act protections for imperiled grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, thanks to a citizen suit.

Dan Behm

Taken together, these bills represent an extreme assault on science, public participation in government, and our nation’s most successful law for protecting wildlife in danger of extinction. Further, these attacks are completely tone deaf—prioritizing special interests and private profit over widely shared public values. The Endangered Species Act is one of our most popular laws, earning the support of four out of five Americans from across the political spectrum. Clearly, these bills’ proponents are more intent on giving favors to their friends in the oil and gas, pesticide, and trophy hunting industries than on representing their own constituents.

Congress should listen to calls to action from their constituents and Mother Nature, and reject these egregious proposals.

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