Victory for Endangered Species
House votes to protect the Endangered Species Act
What I like about working on wildlife conservation is that there are
always nice surprises. Yesterday's surprise was the news of the arrival
in Connecticut of a cougar from South Dakota after a trek of over 1,500 miles. Today's welcome surprise was a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives to restore protections for endangered species.
On the overall subject of environmental protection, the mood in the
House of Representatives lately is surly at best. For example, several
months ago, in passing the spending bill for the remainder of fiscal
year 2011, the House attached over a dozen bad policy "riders" designed
to weaken protections for air, water and wildlife. This week, the House
is at it again, with a proposed 2012 spending bill
for the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency that
cuts deeply into the funds these agencies need to operate and again
removes a host of environmental safeguards.
But one of the provisions in this bill raised serious alarm bells. It would have prevented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services from
designating new species and critical habitats for protection under the Endangered Species Act
(ESA). The ESA is the nation's safety net for its most imperiled
wildlife. This law is one of the key reasons why treasured species such
as the bald eagle (our nation's symbol), Florida panther, American
alligator, whooping crane and several populations of Pacific salmon
remain on the planet today. It also protects habitats that provide us
with recreational opportunities, drinking water, flood protection and a host of other benefits. More than 250 additional species, such as the wolverine and walrus, are heading toward extinction and may only survive if they receive scheduled ESA attention.
Some members of Congress don't think much about the fate of
wolverines and walruses. All they know is that they dislike the ESA
because it requires their big industry friends to slow down their
activities while expert biologists identify threats to species survival
and find ways to modify projects to minimize those threats. When
these anti-ESA House members inserted the noxious provision denying
protections to species in trouble, Representative Norm Dicks and his
allies in the conservation advocacy community leapt into action. They
reminded the House of Representatives of their fundamental obligation to
protect wildlife for their children and future generations. And
today, a bipartisan majority of the House listened and restores ESA
Given all of the bad news coming out of Washington these days, this was surprising to me. I like surprises.
Cross-posted from Wildlife Promise.