Congress launches broad assault on endangered species

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In-depth report shows that America’s conservation legacy for sale to highest bidder

Summary:

  • Defenders releases comprehensive report of legislative attacks on America’s imperiled wildlife, highlighting threats likely to resurface in Congress this fall during ongoing budget negotiations
  • More than a dozen legislative proposals are pending that could make sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act and strip life-saving protections for individual species
  • Key sponsors of anti-wildlife legislation have collectively taken more than $5.9 million in campaign contributions from Big Oil and major agribusinesses
WASHINGTON (09/01/2011) -

When members of Congress return next week, they could consider at least 13 different legislative proposals to undercut endangered species protections, according to a comprehensive report released today by Defenders of Wildlife. Assault on Wildlife: The Endangered Species Act under attack details current legislative attacks on America’s plants and animals and assesses how each one would eviscerate wildlife conservation efforts. Existing proposals include:
    - rolling back vital safeguards for California’s precarious Bay Delta ecosystem,
    - making it easier for polluters to poison waterways with toxic pesticides, and
    - blocking protections for species on the brink of extinction such as the Mexican gray wolf.
Taken together, these attacks would undermine nearly four decades of success under the Endangered Species Act and go back on our nation’s commitment to preserving our wildlife heritage for future generations.

The new report also compiles campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry and major agribusinesses for key members of Congress who have been leading the anti-wildlife crusade. A group of just nine legislators has collectively received more than $5.9 million throughout their careers from Big Oil and Big Ag, calling into question the motivation of their alleged “pro-business” agenda.

While some of the proposed anti-wildlife legislative measures were briefly debated earlier in the year, many could be tucked into larger, must-pass spending bills similar to the controversial “wolf rider” included in the most recent continuing budget resolution. Without strong, persistent opposition from Congress, pending provisions will be negotiated behind closed doors and may never face public scrutiny until it’s too late. The report implores concerned citizens to remain vigilant and demonstrate their continued support for protecting America’s imperiled wildlife, even before the attacks are formalized.

The following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president of Defenders of Wildlife:

“America’s wildlife is seemingly under attack from every direction. Never before have I seen this unprecedented level of disregard for our country’s most imperiled plants and animals. We made a commitment as a nation nearly 40 years ago to preserve our incredible wildlife heritage for our kids and grandkids, but now Congress is getting ready to go back on its word.

“This report should serve as a wake-up call for all Americans. It’s a reminder that we must fight to protect the entire web of life that supports us all and defend it from those who seek to benefit from its destruction. We cannot allow Congress to trade away essential safeguards that not only ensure the survival of at-risk species, but that also provide clean air, clean water and abundant natural resources for all Americans long into the future. Politicians shouldn’t be meddling with our most successful and forward-thinking wildlife conservation law. It’s time to tell them: hands off the ESA!”

Background:

In July, Defenders and its conservation allies led a successful effort to oppose the so-called “extinction rider” that would have blocked protections for more than 260 species awaiting protection under the Endangered Species Act. Read more at www.defenders.org/opposeextinction.

In April, Congress passed (and the Obama administration approved) a provision to strip federal protections for endangered gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, setting a dangerous precedent for further legislative action. Read more at www.defenders.org/nrwolves

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Links:

Download the full report

Read Defenders’ blog series Can’t Live Without ‘Em, which highlights the benefits of protecting endangered species large and small.

Contact(s):

John Motsinger, 202-772-0288

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