Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 2, 2018

Contact: Stephanie Kurose, (202) 849-8395,

Senator Barrasso Proposes Legislation to Gut Endangered Species Act

Putting Politics Over Science, Bill Would Doom Thousands of Species

WASHINGTON— Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) proposed a sweeping attack today on the Endangered Species Act that, if passed, would gut protections for the nation’s most imperiled species. 

The bill would give state governors, who often oppose protections for endangered species, the power to veto scientific decisions about those protections. It would cut off the ability of citizens to go to court to obtain lifesaving protections for imperiled plants and animals.

Sen. Barrasso, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has sponsored or cosponsored 10 bills attacking the Endangered Species Act since 2015 and voted against the Act nearly a dozen times since 2011. 

“This bill will absolutely cripple the Endangered Species Act. If it becomes law, some of America’s most beloved animals will go extinct,” said Stephanie Kurose, endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “By giving state politicians power over crucial wildlife decisions, Senator Barrasso’s bill would fundamentally undermine the scientific underpinnings of this highly successful law, which has saved the bald eagle and countless other species from oblivion.”

So far this Congress, Republicans have launched more than 90 attacks on the Act, none of which would improve the conservation or recovery of protected wildlife. Since Republicans retook the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011, more than 325 attacks against the Act have been introduced.  

Changes to the Endangered Species Act have little public support. A 2015 poll found that 90 percent of the public supports the Act and more than 70 percent of the public believe that decisions about endangered species should be based on science — and made by the experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — not by politicians. 

In December 2016 Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, stated to the public that his goal was to invalidate the Endangered Species Act in its entirety. 

“This legislation doesn’t modernize or reform or improve the Endangered Species Act,” said Kurose. “It’s a reckless attack on the landmark law and a dream come true for anti-wildlife extremists and special-interest groups that put profit above all else, even our endangered species.” 

Sen. Barrasso’s bill would cripple the Endangered Species Act through a variety of provisions, including the following.

  • It imposes a requirement that state and local officials nominated by governors be equal to or exceed federal officials on recovery teams.
  • It defines “best scientific and commercial data available” to automatically include data submitted by state, county or tribe and requires the federal government to give state comments greater weight than comments submitted by individuals or other entities.
  • It exempts federal decisions from judicial review when they fail to meet statutory deadlines for listing species.
  • It delays court challenges to decisions to “delist” or remove protections from imperiled species.
  • It requires unanimous agreement among recovery team members to change the goals of a recovery plan.
  • It requires federal agencies give “great weight” (a term to be defined by Congress) to state views in acquiring federal land to conserve species.
  • It requires federal efforts to reintroduce threatened or endangered species to comply with state permit requirements, giving states a veto over reintroductions.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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