By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
Just a few weeks short of the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act’s passage, opponents in the U.S. Congress have pushed through a series of hostile amendments to undermine the landmark law during the House appropriations funding process. That’s the grim reality of the contemporary political landscape for the Endangered Species Act, which was one of the most popular and bipartisan laws passed in American history.
In recent years, however, the Endangered Species Act has been a primary target of anti-animal politicians and interest groups, and right now they’ve gained the upper hand.
There is no room for complacency here. This is a dangerous moment for imperiled wildlife and that’s why we are determined to keep these destructive proposals out of the final version of the Fiscal Year 2024 Interior-Environment Appropriations bill. We are taking steps to remind lawmakers in both chambers that Americans support the protection of imperiled wildlife through the Endangered Species Act and other laws. We can’t afford to lose this fight, and with your help, we won’t.
This year’s funding bill in the House of Representatives was a veritable feast for fiends with a raft of anti-conservation proposals passing by close votes, one after the other. There was bad news all around, from efforts to delist vulnerable species under the Endangered Species Act, such as the gray wolf, to prohibiting funding to critical conservation projects, such as grizzly bear recovery in the North Cascades Ecosystem.
Anti-wildlife lawmakers also voted to eviscerate measures aiming to improve science-backed endangered species protections for vulnerable wildlife and to regulate the use of lead content in ammunition and fishing tackle. In addition, they pushed through deep funding cuts to key endangered species conservation funds and services, including the National Wildlife Refuge System.
That’s just skimming the surface of what this misguided funding bill aims to destroy, but there’s a common theme: These votes aimed to curb or wreck core programs designed not only to help wildlife species but to help all of us by developing the knowledge we need to fight off toxic pollution, habitat degradation, climate change and other threats to the environmental health of this nation and, for that matter, the world. These losses are tragic because time is running out, and every funding cycle that goes the wrong way does terrible damage.
Americans are rightly proud of the remarkable diversity and appeal of the wildlife species present in states across the country, and for years, we have generally all agreed to protect such species through every available means. Now, it’s just the opposite, as members of congress and special interest groups pot-shot their way through federal agency programs designed to preserve and strengthen our nation’s wildlife heritage.
One of the congressmen who supported the devastating measures referenced above said the effort was designed to limit abuse of the Endangered Species Act; in reality, what he and his colleagues did was to make a mockery of it and put those species already at risk in even greater peril.
The Biden administration has issued a statement opposing the bill, but your help is needed to make sure these harmful provisions do not make it over the finish line. Urge your legislator to keep these attacks on endangered species off the final Fiscal Year 2024 Interior Appropriations bill.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.