House Dems, green groups demand national biodiversity strategy from Biden
Fifty House Democrats — with the support of more than 100 environmental groups and academics — demanded the creation of a national biodiversity strategy in a letter to President Biden on Tuesday.
“The loss of biodiversity presents a direct threat to our security, health, and well-being,” said the letter, sent by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.). “As species decline and habitats degrade, we lose critical ecosystem services that provide us with clean water, fertile soils, food, and the very air we breathe.”
The letter follows up on Neguse’s January 2021 proposal, H.R. 69, for a federal biodiversity strategy. While the representatives who signed Tuesday’s letter were all Democrats, the 39 co-sponsors of last January’s resolution also included one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.).
Tuesday’s letter commended Biden for his efforts thus far to address “compounding environmental crises,” including his commitment to conserving 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. But the signers also warned that as many as a million species worldwide are at risk of extinction, while in North America alone, almost 3 billion birds have disappeared since 1970.
As habitats and critical ecosystems degrade, the availability of clean water, air and food also diminishes, according to the letter. The World Economic Forum has likewise identified biodiversity loss as one of the top five threats to the global economy, the signers added.
Not only does the country’s loss of biodiversity imperil human health and cause economic distress, it “also disproportionately impacts communities of color, low-income communities, tribal communities, and others that have historically faced environmental injustice,” according to the letter.
The letter asks that the government address the “five drivers of biodiversity loss,” which H.R. 69 defines as human alteration of terrestrial and marine environments, exploitation of wildlife, acceleration of climate change, introduction of invasive species, and pollution of air, land and water.
The federal biodiversity strategy, according to the letter, should also “promote social equity and environmental justice” while coordinating the national response with other such initiatives around the world.
“The United States ought to be playing a global leadership role in addressing the biodiversity crisis, and with President Joe Biden in office we have the opportunity to do so,” Neguse said in a statement. “The decline of biodiversity presents a direct threat to our nation’s well-being, and it’s time for the U.S. to take an ambitious whole-of-government approach to address these issues.”
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of the Defenders of Wildlife organization, described biodiversity as “the foundation our planet is built on,” emphasizing how humans “depend on nature and the richness of species within it.”
“If the extinction crisis continues unabated, our nation will lose our unique landscapes, wildlife and biodiversity forever,” she said in a statement. “It is imperative for President Biden to establish a national biodiversity strategy before it’s too late.”
On the same day that Neguse and his colleagues sent their letter to the president, Defenders of Wildlife and several other national conservation groups launched a campaign to advocate for a domestic biodiversity strategy. Worldwide, 193 other countries have already developed similar such plans, the cohort said in a statement.
The movement to implement a federal government strategy is garnering increasing support, with 120 environmental organizations, scientists and university students across the U.S. supporting its creation, according to the groups.
Addie Haughey, legislative director of Earthjustice, called upon Biden to “take concrete steps to prevent extinctions” such as bolstering the Endangered Species Act and investing in the recovery of threatened species.
“The U.S. must take action to address the biodiversity crisis that continues to worsen alongside the climate emergency because our own fate is inextricably linked to the plants and animals with which we share this planet,” Haughey added.