More than 100 Dems oppose GOP efforts to change endangered species law

More than 100 Dems oppose GOP efforts to change endangered species law
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More than 100 Democratic lawmakers are pushing back against Republican efforts to include provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that would weaken certain endangered species protections.

On Tuesday, 119 House Democrats sent a letter to various lawmakers in both chambers urging them to remove specific language in the House version of the defense bill that could weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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The Democrats wrote that the provisions in the bill would "have widespread, negative consequences."

"The 2019 Defense Authorization bills contain numerous, controversial, anti-environmental provisions that are unrelated to military readiness," the lawmakers wrote. "These deceptive provisions would cause irreparable harm to our wildlife and public lands."

One of the amendments, submitted by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOne year later: Puerto Rico battles with bureaucracy after Maria Land and Water Conservation Fund is good for business Trump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands MORE (R-Utah), would prevent the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service from being able to list the greater sage-grouse and the lesser prairie chicken as endangered species for 10 years. Both animals have been the topic of debate in Western states regarding species and habitat management.

That amendment also would permanently remove the American burying beetle from the ESA list.

Another provision that Republicans want to include would delist gray wolves found near the Great Lakes and Wyoming, while another amendment would block ESA protections for all gray wolves in the continental U.S.

"Decisions about how to protect species under the ESA should be based on science and made by the experts at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, not Congress,” Democrats wrote.

Separately, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday considered legislation introduced by Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Push to change wildlife act sparks lobbying blitz House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill MORE (R-Wyo.) that would overhaul the ESA. The ambitious effort would bestow more powers and responsibilities to state officials, allowing them to determine how animals and plants should be protected within state lines.

Republicans contend that the power shift would not weaken protections but rather allow state regulators to use their on-the-ground experience to determine how best to protect a species.