Can the Endangered Species Act withstand the GOP assault?

Lynx kittens
Rare species like lynx would face increased threats under GOP proposals to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Lawmakers rally to block attacks on key environmental law

Staff Report

Conservation-minded lawmakers are rallying to counter the GOP’s seemingly endless attacks on the Endangered Species Act. In a letter to President Barack Obama, 91 members of Congress warned that Republicans are “doubling down” on their efforts to undermine protections for threatened plants and animals.

Led by Arizona Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the lawmakers asked the administration to reject the many proposals that undermine the Endangered Species Act, including those weakening or blocking protections for specific imperiled species.

According to Defenders of Wildlife, Congress has proposed more than 80 bills, amendments and policy riders aimed at weakening environmental laws. In a statement, the group said more than a dozen of these proposals are hidden in must-pass funding legislation for the Department of Defense, Department of the Interior and other federal agencies.

“I am grateful to Congressman Grijalva and the 90 other House members who today have taken a stand against a Congress seemingly bent on undermining protections for our air, lands, water and wildlife,” said Defenders of Wildlife president Jamie Rappaport Clark. “Congress was elected to serve the interests of the American public, not polluters and special economic interests who put profits ahead of our natural heritage at every turn, and wrongly blame federal environmental protections for interfering with their bottom line,” she said.

The GOP is using back-door tactics on behalf of industry to hide its attacks from voters, because polling shows there is continued widespread public support for endangered species protection. One recent poll showed that 68 percent of 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.

“We need the ESA now more than ever — the rate of species extinction is at its highest point since the extinction of the dinosaurs sixtt-five million years ago, with human activity — including significant ecological impacts from climate change — initiating a mass extinction event on our planet,” the lawmakers wrote, asking President Obama to block the anti-environment legislation.

“The proponents of these attacks are trying to drive the extinction of America’s treasured wildlife one species at a time,” said Rappaport Clark. “I echo Congressman Grijalva’s plea to the Obama administration to reject any appropriations bill that includes amendments that would weaken our ability to protect our natural heritage and wildlife for future generations.”

Here’s a List of anti-Endangered Species Act measures added as riders to the FY16 House and Senate bills funding the Department of the Interior and other federal agencies, and a link to the full letter, courtesy Defenders of Wildlife.

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