Lawmakers remove GOP endangered species policies from defense bill

Lawmakers remove GOP endangered species policies from defense bill
© WildEarth Guardians

Congress’s annual defense bill won’t include proposed polices that would restrict Endangered Species Act protections for certain animals.

Lawmakers negotiating between House and Senate defense authorization bills decided not to include any of the endangered species provisions the House had put in its version of the legislation in the final version of the bill.

The House wanted to block potential endangered species protections for the greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken for 10 years, and to permanently block protections for the American burying beetle.

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A House Armed Services Committee GOP aide told reporters Monday that none of the endangered species protections were included in the final National Defense Authorization Act that both chambers will vote on.

“The provisions about endangered species are not in the conference report,” the aide said.

Republicans had argued that the provisions were necessary for military readiness, because species protections would make training and other activities more difficult.

But Democrats, joined by conservationists, fought the endangered species provisions, saying they would be unnecessary and dangerous for the species at hand.

“These deceptive provisions would cause irreparable harm to our wildlife and public lands,” more than 100 Democrats wrote to leading negotiators last week.

The sage grouse provision had gotten the most attention by both supporters and opponents. While the chicken-sized bird is not being eyed for protections by the Trump administration, its presence near and on military basis has made the GOP nervous about potential protections.

Rep. 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), who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, has for years pushed to stop sage grouse protections through the defense bills.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE (R-Ariz.) has pushed back in the past, but due to his ongoing cancer fight, McCain has not been closely involved with defense bill negotiations this year.

— Rebecca Kheel contributed.