Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 14, 2018

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121, bhartl@biologicaldiversity.org

Barrasso, Senate Republicans Renew Attack on Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON— The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), will hold a hearing Thursday continuing its relentless attacks on the Endangered Species Act, this time under the guise of examining wildlife conservation funding.

Sen. Barrasso is pushing draft legislation that would disastrously turn management of endangered species over to states even if they lack the necessary funding or legal authority for protecting them. The Center for Biological Diversity submitted written testimony to the Committee on Environment and Public Works regarding Sen. Barrasso’s dangerous legislative proposals. 

Since 2011 Mr. Barrasso has voted against the Endangered Species Act nearly a dozen times; he sponsored nine separate legislative attacks on the Act in the past two years alone. 

“Senator Barrasso feigns concern for conservation funding, but his real goal is to take a chainsaw to lifesaving protections for wildlife provided by the Endangered Species Act,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. “There’s a critical need to increase funding for wildlife conservation, but America’s endangered species won’t get any help from Barrasso.”

Based on a 2015 analysis of federal recovery plans, funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recover endangered species is just 3 percent of what is needed. Full funding for recovery of endangered animals and plants would cost roughly $2.4 billion annually, compared with the less than $80 million per year the agency currently receives for species recovery. 

“We’re one of the richest countries in the world, yet the amount of money we spend on recovering endangered species is paltry,” said Hartl. “Senator Barrasso is a big part of why we don’t have enough money for imperiled wildlife, cleaner water and air and a host of other serious environmental problems.”

His draft legislation to give the states more control to states would allow governors to veto scientific decisions about species protection. In addition the legislation would:

  • Require that state and local officials be equal to, or exceed, the number of federal officials on any endangered species recovery team;
  • Weaken the definition of “best scientific and commercial data available” to give priority to data submitted by states or other local entities even if the data are of lesser quality;
  • Eliminate all meaningful deadlines to protect imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act, dooming most to extinction;
  • Prevent court challenges regarding erroneous decisions to delist, or remove protections from imperiled species;
  • Give states a veto on changing any recovery plan goals by requiring unanimous agreement among recovery team members regarding those changes;
  • Require federal efforts to reintroduce threatened or endangered species to comply with state permit requirements, giving states a veto over future reintroductions.

Mr. Barrasso is also pushing the cynically titled “HELP for Wildlife Act.” This bill seeks to end federal protection for gray wolves and exempt lead fishing tackle from regulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in exchange for reauthorizing several conservation programs. 

During the 115th Congress, Republicans have launched more than 115 attacks on the Endangered Species Act. Since Republicans retook the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011, nearly 350 attacks against the Act have been introduced. This is despite the fact that nine out of 10 Americans want the Act strengthened or left unchanged by Congress, according to a 2015 poll.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

www.biologicaldiversity.org

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