Wildlife

Chair Grijalva, Senator Udall Introduce Bill to Protect Endangered Species, Reverse Trump’s Changes That Will Add to Extinction Crisis

What: “Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish in Need of Conservation Act of 2019.
When: Today; September 17, 2019
Where: Washington D.C.

 

CONTACT:
Chris Bachman: cbachman@landscouncil.org
(509( 209-2401

Washington D.C. – Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, introduced legislation today to repeal all three Trump administration final rule changes to the Endangered Species Act, which taken together will fundamentally change the way we protect threatened and endangered species.

Under Trump’s rules, the administration can ignore long-term threats to wildlife from climate change and remove guaranteed protections to threatened species listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, essentially nullifying the protective value of a threatened listing. 

The full text of the H.R. 4348 is available at:

https://naturalresources.house.gov/imo/media/doc/Grijalva,%20Udall%20ESA%20Bill.pdf

“We are in the middle of an extinction crisis, and President Trump is bulldozing the most important tool we have to protect endangered species,” said Chair Grijalva. “If we want to protect species close to extinction, Congress has no choice but to act. Trump’s changes are handouts to special interests that want to keep lining their pockets regardless of the consequences. If we don’t stop the Trump administration’s short-sighted rollbacks, more wildlife habitats will be sacrificed to oil and gas development.”

 “The Endangered Species Act has been a pillar of environmental protection in this nation for 40 years, without which our most iconic species— including the bald eagle, the gray whale, and the grizzly bear— would likely be extinct,” said Senator Udall. “The Trump administration’s new regulations intentionally cripple the ESA – another giveaway to industry that puts near-term profits ahead of our long-term national interest. The Trump effort to gut the Endangered Species Act turns a blind eye to the science that tells us we should be enhancing wildlife habitat protections not dismantling them at the behest of special interests, at a time when human activity threatens one million species with extinction and the United States is losing a football field worth of natural land every 30 seconds. Stopping this rollback of the Endangered Species Act is critical to restoring the best tools we have for protecting our precious plants and wildlife.”

 Original cosponsors of the bill include ESA Caucus co-chairs Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.):

 “Huge numbers of key species face unprecedented threats, and we have a moral obligation to do everything in our power to protect them,” said Rep. Beyer. “The Trump Administration’s attacks on the Endangered Species Act are designed to benefit special interests, not the thousands of animal and plant species in the United States at risk of extinction due to habitat loss. With this legislation we are taking a major step to preserve biodiversity and protect imperiled wildlife.”

 “The Endangered Species Act is among the most effective ever passed. For more than 40 years, we have come together in bipartisan fashion to protect species critical to maintaining the balance of our wildlife,” said Rep. Dingell. “The Administration’s efforts to weaken Endangered Species protections are taking us in the wrong direction. We must work together to uphold and build upon the successes of the Endangered Species Act.”

 Grijalva has been a steadfast champion of the ESA and a vocal critic of President Trump’s effort to undermine the successful law. The Trump administration’s erosion of the ESA makes it more difficult to protect and recover threatened and endangered species and gives industry a free pass to destroy the environment.

The ESA is a remarkably successful law: 99% of species listed under the ESA have not gone extinct, and the ESA continues to enjoy bipartisan support across the country. Members of the public submitted hundreds of thousands of comments decrying Trump’s proposed changes during a public comment period earlier this year.

Additional original cosponsors include Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)

“We thank Rep. Grijalva for his leadership in addressing the Trump Administration’s attack on one of our most successful laws that has broad support from American citizens. It is important to acknowledge that extinction is forever, a species that evolved and found its place in the global ecosystem is gone-never to return. Climate change and a wave of other man made threats are impacting species around the world. Now is not the time to ignore science and gamble away our natural history and heritage over some misguided anti-Endangered Species Act agenda. This critical legislation would rightfully revoke the Trump administration’s reckless rollback of our most important law for protecting our most imperiled species and the habitats that support them." - Chris Bachman, Wildlife Program Director, The Lands Council

The legislation is supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including: The Lands Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Western Watersheds Project, Endangered Species Coalition, Wildlife Conservation Society, Animal Welfare Institute, Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, WildEarth Guardians, and the Humane Society among others.

TLC Joins Environmental Groups Opposing Trump Admin Decision

The Trump administration finalized changes rolling back the Endangered Species Act on Monday. Regulators will now be allowed to factor in economic considerations when granting “endangered” status, species classified as “threatened” will see their protections weakened, and scientists will be limited in setting climate change-related protections. Critics say the changes were made to clear the way for mining, drilling and development projects in areas populated by protected species. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries. He is currently under investigation for possible ethics violations. The 46-year-old landmark Endangered Species Act has saved over 99% of classified animals, plants and insects since its inception. It’s credited with protecting the grizzly bear, the humpback whale and the bald eagle from extinction, among many others.

Environmental groups, Democratic lawmakers, and attorneys general have vowed to fight the changes. The Sierra Club called the move the “Trump Extinction Plan.” The International Fund for Animal Welfare said in a statement, “The most comprehensive assessment of biodiversity ever completed was released earlier this year and shows that more than one million species are at risk of extinction. These species are inextricably linked to our own well-being, livelihoods, economies, food security, and overall survival. Gutting key protections of the Endangered Species Act is precisely the wrong action for the U.S. to be taking.”

Find more information here: https://www.npr.org/2019/08/12/750479370/trump-administration-makes-major-changes-to-protections-for-endangered-species

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Dwindling Numbers of Mountain Caribou

Recently Gone From Lower 48 States, Caribou Need Protection to Return

SANDPOINT, Idaho— Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to finalize endangered species protection and designate critical habitat for Southern Mountain caribou.

“The last wild caribou in the lower 48 states have disappeared, but the Trump administration is still delaying the protection they desperately need to thrive in the United States again,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If we’re going to get our beloved reindeer back, they need the strong protection of the Endangered Species Act.”

The southern Selkirk herd of caribou, which formerly occupied southern British Columbia, Idaho and Washington, has been protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1983.

In 2014 the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the herd is actually part of a larger population known as the Southern Mountain caribou, which includes a number of herds in Canada, and proposed protecting them as threatened.

The Service, however, never finalized protection for Southern Mountain caribou. The agency also failed to reconsider designating protected critical habitat for the caribou after the groups involved in today’s action successfully challenged a previous designation that only included a small fraction of the caribou’s former range in the United States.

Late last year Canada brought the last animals from the southern Selkirk herd into captivity, marking the loss of all caribou from the lower 48 states.

“It is a tragedy that Southern Mountain caribou have been wiped out from the lower 48,” said Jason Rylander, senior counsel at Defenders of Wildlife. “The Trump administration has the power to return Southern Mountain caribou to their original stomping grounds by securing protections for this imperiled species and its habitat. We must act now before it is too late.”

The conservation groups are represented by attorneys from the Center for Biological Diversity and Advocates for the West.

Background
Caribou once had a broad range across the lower 48, including the northern Rockies in Washington, Idaho and Montana, the upper Midwest and the Northeast.

By 1983, when they were protected under the Endangered Species Act, caribou were limited to just the northern Rockies and declining fast. In the 1990s the Fish and Wildlife Service augmented the southern Selkirk herd with caribou from Canada, which helped the population grow to more than 100 animals. But the effort was abandoned without explanation, allowing the Selkirk herd to languish and decline.

In 2011, following a petition and litigation from conservation groups, the Service proposed designating more than 375,000 acres of critical habitat for caribou in Idaho and Washington. In 2012, however, the Service finalized a designation that included only about 30,000 acres. This massive cut in critical habitat was successfully challenged by the groups, but the Service has yet to issue a new critical habitat designation.

Mountain caribou are an “ecotype” of the more widespread woodland caribou. They are uniquely adapted to life in the very snowy mountains of British Columbia and the northernmost areas of the northern Rockies in the lower 48 states.

Caribou hooves are the size of dinner plates and act like snowshoes. The animals can survive all winter eating arboreal lichens found on the branches of old-growth trees only accessible in winter. Development and roads are increasingly fragmenting their habitat.

Adding insult to injury, the increased power and popularity of snowmobiles has allowed more people to infringe on the caribou’s alpine habitat. Snowmobiles disturb the caribou while also compacting trails that provides predators access to caribou during winter.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Advocates for the West protects and defends our public lands, wildlife, watersheds and air through litigation and negotiation. www.advocateswest.org

The Lands Council has working to protect wild forests, rare wildlife, and rivers in the Inland Northwest for over 35 years. www.landscouncil.org

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter@DefendersNews.