For Immediate Release, March 28, 2014

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121

House Republicans Introduce Legislation to Weaken Endangered Species Act

 Bills Would Divert Resources From Species Conservation and Harm Scientific Integrity

WASHINGTON— In another attempt to placate their industry benefactors and burnish their Tea Party credibility, House Republicans have introduced four bills that would divert funding from protecting species and discourage citizens from helping enforce the ’ landmark law that has prevented extinction of 99 percent of the species it protects. Under the guise of reform, the highly partisan bills introduced on Thursday by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and his allies would actually weaken the Endangered Species Act’s effectiveness and redirect scarce agency resources from species-recovery work to pointless reporting requirements.

“Rep. Hastings has once again chosen to pursue a cynical strategy that whittles away at the core of the Endangered Species Act rather than working to strengthen it,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “If you want to protect endangered species, the best way to do it is to provide wildlife agencies with the resources to do their jobs, and stop hamstringing their conservation efforts at every turn. Continuing to perpetuate Tea Party myths is not a path to species conservation.”

Two of the Republican bills, H.R. 4316 and H.R. 4318, continue to pointlessly attack legal settlements in response to litigation brought by environmental groups. The Department of Justice’s own data, as well as data from a very recent Government Accountability Office report, demonstrate that litigation costs are not a concern under the Endangered Species Act. For example, the Department of Justice data shows that from 2008 to 2012, the Center was paid a total of $594,123 in attorney’s fees. By comparison, industry was paid a similar $550,324 in fees in Endangered Species Act cases over the same four-year period. These totals are much less than the $1.5 million spent by the Department of Interior over the last two years just to respond to Rep. Hastings’ never-ending stream of harassing subpoenas.

“Like most of his Tea Party brethren, since becoming the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, Doc Hastings has voted to cut off funding to protect highly imperiled endangered species and weaken the Endangered Species Act every chance he’s gotten,” said Hartl. “Republicans always claim that they also support endangered species, but their actions consistently prove otherwise.”   

Two additional bills — H.R. 4315, introduced by Rep. Hastings, and Texas Rep. Randy Neugebauer’s H.R. 4317 — claim to increase transparency and enhance state and local participation under the Act. But Republicans ignore the fact that the Act already provides states with extensive input in all protection decisions affecting species within their borders, and that the wildlife agencies always consider information submitted by state and local government agencies when making protection decisions. Rep. Hastings’ bill would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to post all information about listing decisions online, without considering that posting some of the information could increase the threat of poaching of some highly imperiled species.

“It’s really sad that the Republicans continue to needlessly attack the most important American law ever written protecting plants and animals from extinction, when common-sense improvements — such as fully funding recovery activities — could actually pass in Congress and help to change the course of the extinction crisis we’re now facing.  This is another wasted opportunity,” Hartl said.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 675,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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