UPDATE: The House Natural Resources Committee voted Sept. 26 to remove federal protections for the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act. The vote was 19-15. The full House has not yet scheduled a vote on the bill.
Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is expressing strong opposition to the House Natural Resources Committee’s decision to hold a hearing and markup September 26 on a package of nine bills designed to undercut crucial conservation tools. On the same day, the committee is scheduled to vote on a bill blocking federal protections for gray wolves across the contiguous United States. These bills would impose damaging and unnecessary revisions to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and undermine the government’s ability to protect imperiled species.
“Conducting this hearing and markup is not how the majority of Americans want Congress spending its time,” said Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “The Endangered Species Act is supported by 90 percent of citizens. Anti-wildlife members of Congress are using up valuable time to discuss how to dismantle the law, which is a disservice to voters.”
The hearing and markup come two days after the deadline to comment on three proposed rules by the Trump administration that would similarly strip core provisions from the ESA. AWI and 16 other conservation groups submitted more than 800,000 public comments Monday to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service from citizens opposed to the changes.
If passed, the package of nine bills will severely undercut the aims of the ESA by making it harder to list species (and easier to delist species), obstructing citizens’ ability to use the judicial system to challenge poor enforcement of the law, and transferring too much ESA management power to states. The bills would also shrink the amount of critical habitat that can be set aside for threatened and endangered species and allow federal authorities to base listing decisions on data that may not be the “best available science” (as currently required under the ESA), among other damaging provisions.
The one bill scheduled to receive a vote, H.R. 6784 (introduced by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-WI), would block federal protections for gray wolves across the contiguous United States. The bill would also prevent citizens from going to court to challenge these delistings. While the return of gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes has been an incredible success story, they still occupy only a small portion of their former range. This bill would reverse the incredible progress that the ESA has achieved for this species over the past few decades.
According to Liss, “Despite their claims, the sponsors of these bills don’t want to ‘modernize’ the ESA in a way that will result in better outcomes for wildlife. They are seeking to secure a blatant giveaway to industry, with little concern for how reduced protections may result in the extinction of species.”
The markup will occur at 10:15 a.m. in Room 1324 of the Longworth House office building. The hearing will occur at 2 p.m. in the same room.
Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, firstname.lastname@example.org