ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT • DEFENDING THE ACT
Center fighting species attacks by Congress
This spring, Congress passed a rider stripping Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves — marking the first time ever that legislators, not wildlife agencies, have taken those safeguards away from an endangered species.
T hat rider — one of the worst attacks on endangered wildlife in history — was cynically attached to a must- pass federal spending bill. The Center is fighting the measure in court, but its dangerous precedent has been set. Now any politician with a motive for pulling protection from an endangered species may bypass the scientists entrusted with the fate of rare animals and plants and simply write up a piece of legislative language determining that fate.
April’s anti-wolf rider wasn’t the first time members of the 112th Congress have signaled their hostility toward endangered species. The Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives revealed its intent to gut the Endangered Species Act in its version of the federal spending bill proposed in February — a version loaded with candy for big business, including attempts to block decades-long efforts to restore salmon to the San joaquin River.
Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) has sponsored a bill that would exempt all national forest timber cutting from environmental laws and oust threatened Mexican spotted owls from their wild habitat into so-called “sanctuaries.” Pearce has also been leading a disinformation campaign aimed at blocking protection for the dunes sagebrush lizard in New Mexico and Texas. And Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) has introduced a bill to exempt the Department of Homeland Security from Endangered Species Act rules for any border-patrol operations within 100 miles of the border — despite the fact that law enforcement itself says it doesn’t need such a bill.
Indirect attacks on species are proliferating too. Congress has been fast-tracking measures to speed up offshore-drilling operations that threaten sea turtles and whales in the Gulf of Mexico and Arctic species like the polar bear.
Sadly, the obama administration and Democrats have been, at best, lukewarm supporters of the Endangered Species Act. The anti-wolf bill was sponsored by Montana Democratic Sen. jon Tester and tacitly endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack obama. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has also shown little love for endangered species, pushing through Bush-era plans to delist wolves and grizzlies and deny polar bears full protection. His ceaseless promotion of offshore drilling has deeply damaging effects on wildlife.
Fortunately, the Endangered Species Act has a proven track record of protecting and recovering plants and animals that would have vanished without it. Hundreds of species have seen their struggling populations soar thanks to the Act. A Center study in the Northeast, for instance, found that 93 percent increased or remained stable after being placed on the endangered species list.
But it’s going to take more than a history of success to fend off attacks on the world’s most powerful law for protecting species. Anticipating a series of backdoor and anti-scientific assaults on the Act, the Center is adding firepower to our endangered species team. We’ll soon be hiring a national organizer to lead our defense of the Act and keep politicians from meddling in biology. •
Make sure they’ll still be around by making sure we’ll be.
o ur frontlines work from the courtrooms to Congress has made the Center the nation’s leading advocate for endangered species. With a commitment to our Legacy Society, made through your will, living trust, retirement plan or life- insurance policy, you can help make sure the Center will continue to give a strong lifeline to plants and animals being pushed toward extinction. To learn more about membership in the Center’s Legacy Society and how you can make a gi that will endure beyond your lifetime, as well as provide you and your loved ones with signicant tax and nancial advantages, please call us at (866) 357-3349 x. 318 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. •
CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY SUMMEr 2011