Diane Miller: Endangered Species Act is threatened
The Endangered Species Act is the result of legislation that passed with broad bipartisan support in 1973. It recognizes the “esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value of nature to our nation and its people.” The provisions of this act are responsible for improving populations of dozens of bird and mammal species, among them bald eagle, the gray wolf, peregrine falcons and the black-footed ferret.
Unfortunately, the act itself is now threatened by a one-two punch of legislative and regulatory proposals backed by the oil and gas industry. Congress is currently considering a series of nine bills that would weaken the act by various means such as shifting oversight of species recovery plans to the states, limiting legal actions against perceived violations and preventing new species from being listed.
In addition to these bills, regulatory changes to the Endangered Species Act have been proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the direction of the Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. These regulatory changes are outlined in three separate proposals:
- The first set of regulatory changes would limit the designation of critical habitat, incorporate economic factors into the listing process and make it difficult to include scientifically-based climate projections when ascertaining future threats to species.
- The second set of changes would remove nearly all protections for wildlife newly designated as “threatened.” This would mean that threatened species would not receive protections until and unless their populations dwindled to the point of being listed as “endangered.”
- The third set of changes would weaken the requirement that government agencies consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife on the Endangered Species Act, a process designed to keep activities of other federal agency activities from harming imperiled species and their habitats.
The vast majority of Americans — Republicans and Democrats alike — support the Endangered Species Act and its goals. If you are among them, it is time to speak out. Contact members of Congress and ask them to vote against riders, amendments and stand-alone legislation that undermine the act: Sen. Cory Gardner, 202-224-5941; Sen. Michael Bennet, 202-224-5852; Congressman Scott Tipton, 202-225-4781.
Comments on proposed regulatory changes to the ESA are due Sept. 24. Follow this link at https://www.fws.gov/news/ShowNews.cfm?ref=u.s.-fish-and-wildlife-service-and-noaa-fisheries-seek-public-input-on-&_ID=36286 and then comment on each of the three dockets. Let Congress and the U.S. Department of Interior know that Americans value wild lands and the creatures that depend on those lands for survival.
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