Crisis Averted: Spending Bill Free of Attacks on Wildlife

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Haley McKey, 202-772-0247, hmckey@defenders.org

Washington (May 1, 2017)Congress has reached a deal on a 2017 omnibus spending bill which will fund the federal government through September of this year.

The legislation is free of anti-wildlife amendments or “riders” that attack the Endangered Species Act, wildlife refuges and conservation efforts, except for a rider from last year’s budget which blocks future Endangered Species Act protections for sage-grouse for at least one year. The budget also preserves 99 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and increases funding for clean energy and scientific research.

Congress also authorized establishment of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Foundation. Similar to public foundations created for national parks, national forests and fish and wildlife conservation, the new BLM Foundation may accept and spend contributed funds to conserve and reclaim public lands and resources administered by the BLM.

Despite these victories, the budget does not give vital federal conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund a bump in funding to match the increase in defense spending proposed in the bill. These programs are already starved for money and other resources.

Statement from Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark:

“There is much to appreciate in this spending bill, not least that it prevents another government shutdown. It is also thankfully largely free of riders that threaten wildlife refuges, endangered species and even the Endangered Species Act itself. And it keeps the Environmental Protection Agency, our first line of federal defense in the fight against climate change, almost completely intact. This is no doubt thanks in great part to those who spoke out, on Capitol Hill and across America, for protecting our environment and our natural heritage.

“But while this budget avoids sneak attacks on wildlife, it rings alarm bells regarding potential future cuts to conservation funding and future negotiations on border construction. Allocating funds to replace vehicle barriers with fencing is particularly troubling, as it could bisect important Southwestern wildlife habitats and divide border communities.

“Thousands of Americans have stood up for science and climate over the past two weeks, and thousands more are marching today on May Day for workers and immigrants’ rights.  We will continue to stand in solidarity with Americans fighting for a progressive, just society and against any proposed funding for a border wall.

“We may be able to breathe a sigh of relief now, but we will never stop fighting to protect our natural heritage.”

Background

Between the House and Senate bills, there were more than 75 riders seeking to degrade bedrock environmental and conservation laws, such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act. Through hard-fought negotiations on this bill, Democrats successfully blocked anti-environmental provisions, including the following items:

 • Language to block efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are clearly and consistently defined

• Language to block implementation of the Clean Power Plan, including greenhouse gas emissions restrictions from new and existing power plants

• Multiple provisions aimed at weakening the Endangered Species Act by substituting politics for science, including riders that affected the listing status of gray wolves and lesser prairie chicken. 

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.