Congress out of synch with voters on environmental issues

The majority of Americans support protection for endangered species, and for clean air and clean water. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Nearly 7 in 10 voters favor strong environmental laws, yet Congress kowtows to special interests

Staff Report

FRISCO — If Americans voted purely on environmental issues, the country would have a very “green” Congress, according to a new poll showing that most people support the Endangered Species Act, and are more likely to vote for candidates who want to uphold environmental safeguards.

Conservation groups highlighted the timing of poll results, released as Congress prepares to vote on a budget bill that includes more than 25 anti-environmental amendments that would cut funding and protection for endangered species.

The poll was conducted in June by Tulchin Research for Defenders of Wildlife and Earthjustice and shows that 90 percent of Americans support upholding the Endangered Species Act.

Other poll results:

  • 68 percent of registered voters are more likely to vote for a member of Congress who supports environmental safeguards like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
  • Nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of registered voters believe that decisions about which species should or should not be protected under the Endangered Species Act should be made by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, not by members of Congress.
  • 66 percent of respondents reject the false choice between jobs or economy and protection of species and agree that the law is necessary to prevent species from going extinct. This plurality believes we can protect our natural heritage for future generations while growing our economy and creating jobs.
  • Less than one-fourth (24 percent) agree with critics who contend that the law hurts our economy and destroys jobs.

“Congress is on the wrong side of public opinion on this issue. The vast majority of Americans strongly believe in upholding the Endangered Species Act and that’s what they want their elected officials to do,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife.

“But that’s not what is happening. What we are witnessing in Congress today is a full-fledged attack on our bedrock environmental laws – the Endangered Species Act, The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. We need a Congress that puts the best interests of the American public before the wishes of polluters and special interests.”

The poll was conducted June 25-29, 2015 among a representative sample of 600 registered voters across the United States. The margin of error for this survey is plus or minus four percentage points.

“Congress passed the Endangered Species Act with an overwhelming bipartisan majority more than 40 years ago,” said Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen. “And an overwhelming majority of Americans continue to support the goals of this vital law. This Congress is obviously listening to Big Oil and other special interests – not the American public – in its mad dash to deny protections for endangered species.”

Since January, members of Congress have introduced over 50 proposals that would cripple endangered species conservation. Some legislative proposals put specific imperiled wildlife species on the chopping block, while others attack core provisions of the Endangered Species Act itself.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to finish consideration of the H.R. 2822, the FY 2016 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill which includes three species-specific policy riders that would undermine the Endangered Species Act.

More information on these riders here. Many more anti-ESA amendments are anticipated to be offered as the bill is considered on the floor of the House.

Other bills or amendments that have been proposed in this Congress attack the most important provisions of the Endangered Species Act itself.

One particularly outrageous bill proposed by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), S. 855, encompasses a sweeping array of destructive and damaging amendments to the Endangered Species Act. For example, the bill would ban federal protection for any endangered species whose range is limited within the boundaries of just one state.

More than half of all listed U.S. species, including all listed species in Hawaii, would fall under this sweeping exception and would lose federal protection if this bill became law.


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