Republicans serving up endangered species for the holiday season

Just in time for holidays, Congressional Republicans, rankled by the fact that endangered species protection decisions are by law based on science rather than politics, are trying to slip a legislative noose around some of the nation’s most needy species.

They’re doing it in a way specifically designed not only to sidestep the proven powers of the Endangered Species Act, which has prevented extinction of 99 percent of species it protects, but to prevent court reviews and hide their political maneuvering from the public.

{mosads}If the attack succeeds, by year’s end, special “policy riders” attached to spending bills – riders that have nothing to do with spending — would reduce or completely disallow federal protections for species such as gray wolves, sage grouse and lesser prairie chickens.

It’s a practice that has become more and more common in recent years as conservative leaders in Congress and some states opposed to the protective powers of the Endangered Species Act have resorted to special legislative actions designed to bend federal species protection decisions to the will of corporate giants like the oil and gas industry and Big Ag.

According to a recent study, these legislative attacks on the law and specific imperiled species have jumped by more than 600 percent in recent years, with more than 80 such anti-endangered species laws and amendments proposed just this year.

One current rider would not only override two federal court decisions to strip federal protection from wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Wyoming but prevent future judicial challenges – meaning tax-paying citizens would be purposefully excluded from the process.

Another rider would strip federal protections from the greatly imperiled lesser prairie chicken, which, after losing more than 90 percent of its habitat, has been protected as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act since 2014.

Yet another would prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from protecting the greater sage grouse, which has already seen an estimated 90 percent drop in population.

What these backroom political attacks demonstrate is that Republicans are confounded by the broad, ongoing public support for the Endangered Species Act, which not only has been wildly successfully in preventing extinctions, but has put hundreds of species on the road to recovery.

And through the process of protecting and recovering species like the bald eagle, the American alligator and the brown pelican, the Act has helped to recover and preserve the health of millions of acres of habitat critically important not only to imperiled species, but to the long-term health of the forests and waterways that all species depend on, including  humans.

For all those reasons, polls routinely show that the great majority of Americans continue to acknowledge what the members of Congress knew four decades ago when they passed the Endangered Species Act by near unanimous vote – that the Act is necessary to help us balance our short-term economic needs with our best long-term economic and environmental interests.

Without it, there would be no balance at all.

And that’s exactly what Republican leaders are hoping for.

Hartl is Endangered Species Policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity.


The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

More Energy & Environment at The Hill News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video