For Immediate Release, April 30, 2014

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121

House Republicans Approve Bills to Weaken Endangered Species Act

 Committee Votes to Divert Resources Away From Saving Endangered Species

WASHINGTON— In a series of partisan votes today, House Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee approved four bills to weaken the Endangered Species Act, including siphoning scarce money away from saving wildlife for pointless reporting requirements. The bills would also discourage citizens from holding the government accountable in protecting endangered species; it would water down the definition of “best available science” in determining how to manage imperiled species. The full House of Representatives will likely vote on the bills later this year.

“Let’s be clear: None of these bills will save a single species from extinction or move it closer to recovery,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Quite the reverse. Rather than focus on what’s really needed — more funding to save endangered species — Rep. Hastings and other extreme Republicans have voted to hamstring the Fish and Wildlife Service, whittle away at citizen participation in enforcing the Act, and put imperiled species at greater risk of harm from poaching.”

H.R. 4315, introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings, the Washington Republican who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, will require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to post all information about listing decisions online, despite the fact that posting some geographically specific information could increase the threat of poaching and collecting of some highly imperiled species.

“Like most of his Tea Party brethren, Doc Hastings has voted to weaken the Endangered Species Act every chance he’s gotten,” said Hartl. “These latest bills are part of a long-running strategy to hobble the law that, over the past 40 years, has put whales, wolves, grizzly bears, bald eagles and hundreds of other iconic species on the path toward recovery.”

Earlier this year, a “working group” of 13 House Republicans led by Hastings released a proposal to dismantle key portions of the Endangered Species Act, including limiting citizens’ ability to hold the government accountable and giving local politicians more influence over which plants and animals receive protections. Today’s bills represent the first steps taken by the Republicans to further the radical changes envisioned by the working group.  The Natural Resources Committee approved three other bills today in highly partisan votes:

  • H.R. 4316, introduced by Rep. Cynthia Lummis, (R-Wyo.), directs the Fish and Wildlife Service to complete onerous, annual-reporting requirements regarding the amount of resources spent by the federal government on litigation brought to protect imperiled plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act. The Department of Justice’s own data, as well as data from a recent Government Accountability Office report, demonstrate that litigation costs are already available.
  • H.R. 4317, introduced by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), would arbitrarily define “best available science” so that any state or local data would automatically be declared the “best” even if the data are outdated, unscientific, or rejected by the peer-review process.
  • H.R. 4318, introduced by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), would reduce attorney fees paid under the Endangered Species Act, making it harder for citizens, conservation, ranchers and farmers to ensure the government is following laws meant to protect and recover imperiled plants and animals.

“Given the outright hostility to endangered species that we have seen from the House Republicans, these votes aren’t surprising,” Hartl said. “But it’s sad that they continue to needlessly attack the Act when reasonable improvements — such as fully funding recovery activities — could actually pass in Congress and help to change the course of the extinction crisis that’s robbing us of our native wildlife.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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