New Senate Bill Undercuts Endangered Species Act

Photo from Flickr by NPS Tim Rains
Photo from Flickr by NPS Tim Rains

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is expressing vehement opposition to draft legislation, released yesterday by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), entitled the Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018. According to AWI, this bill would impose damaging and unnecessary revisions to the remarkably successful and popular Endangered Species Act (ESA), and thus undermine the government’s ability to protect imperiled species.

“This attempt to eviscerate key provisions of the Endangered Species Act is a blatant giveaway to industry, and not a genuine effort to improve species preservation,” said Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “The changes proposed in this bill would expose an increasing number of species to extinction.”

Senator Barrasso’s draft legislation would shift much of the authority for protecting imperiled species under the ESA from the federal government to the states, even though the ESA itself is a tool intended for use after state remedies have failed. State and local communities are already consulted extensively by federal agencies tasked with enforcing the ESA. According to AWI, this bill is simply a tactic to weaken the ESA by placing decision-making authority in the hands of state governments that may be hostile to the species at risk and whose very actions may have contributed to the species’ decline.

Furthermore, according to AWI, the bill would undercut agencies’ reliance on best available science, jeopardizing the unbiased review of each species’ status. It also ensures that the government cannot be sued if it fails to meet statutory deadlines for listing species, one of the only mechanisms for ensuring timely agency action when seeking protections for species in desperate need. In addition, a delisting decision could not be subject to legal challenge for five years, leaving the delisted species unprotected from a range of threats including trapping and industrial development.

Senator Barrasso partnered with Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, a member of the Western Governors’ Association, to draft this bill. Wyoming has long promoted lethal take of gray wolves and grizzly bears, two of the most popular targets for foes of the ESA.

“The Endangered Species Act works to prevent extinctions and to facilitate species recovery. We have seen irrefutable proof of that over the years,” said Liss. “It does not need to be reformed, streamlined, or modernized—it simply needs to be fully funded and given the opportunity to help species achieve recovery. Congress must stop meddling with this critically important law and focus instead on ensuring it is fully implemented and enforced.”

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Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128,

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