Washington, DC—The 2019 Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, passed late Tuesday by a House subcommittee, includes several anti-wildlife provisions that raise grave concerns for the Animal Welfare Institute.
“These attacks on imperiled wildlife do not belong in a funding bill, and yet we see them over and over again as anti-wildlife members of Congress try to force their agenda into unrelated legislation,” said Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “The subcommittee should focus on ensuring that the Department of the Interior has the funding to fully enforce conservation laws like the ESA [Endangered Species Act], not on circumventing the experts at that agency and removing species’ protections for political aims.”
AWI thanks the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies for appropriating funding at Fiscal Year 2018 levels—$35.25 billion, or $7 billion above the administration’s budget. Yet the funding bill includes several harmful sections:
- Section 115 would prevent the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from listing the greater sage-grouse or Columbia Basin sage-grouse under the ESA for at least a year. This rider is particularly egregious in light of recent administrative action, which proposes to eliminate crucial sagebrush habitat protections and weaken limits on oil and gas development in these areas.
- Section 116 would ensure that gray wolves do not receive protections under the ESA in Wyoming or the Great Lakes region. This would not only place gray wolves in peril, but also undermine the ESA by removing decision-making power from scientists and giving it instead to partisan members of Congress. This rider also blocks judicial review, meaning that citizens would not be able to challenge the delisting in court. Shielding agency actions from review by independent federal courts violates citizens’ rights under the ESA and is simply undemocratic.
- Section 117 would remove ESA protections for gray wolves across the continental United States. The gray wolf is currently listed as endangered in most of the lower 48 states. This iconic American species still only occupies a small portion of its former range. This rider would reverse the significant progress that the ESA has achieved for this species over the past few decades, once again putting the gray wolf at risk of extinction.
- Section 418 would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency and all federal land management agencies from regulating the use of lead in ammunition, ammunition components, and fishing tackle. Used ammunition represents one of the largest sources for lead entering the environment, and poisons millions of birds and thousands of mammals each year, including threatened and endangered species. Even though the EPA has not attempted to regulate the use of lead in ammunition, this rider would prohibit the agency from taking steps to do so, even in the face of scientific evidence about lead’s environmental impacts.
“As we have seen over the past several decades, the ESA works,” said Liss. “One of the reasons it is so effective and popular is that it is implemented using science, not politics. There is no reason to undermine the scientists’ determinations for how to conserve our vulnerable wildlife species, and there is no reason to weaken this Act or any other wildlife protections. I hope Congress agrees that these attacks are harmful and irrelevant to the purpose of this legislation, and that these riders are stripped from the Interior appropriations bill.”
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