WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2017— More than 280 environmental, animal-protection, faith-based, outdoor-recreational and social-justice groups sent a letter today to the National Governors Association urging the organization to oppose any upcoming legislative changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Specifically, the letter asks the national association not to support an ongoing effort led by the Western Governors’ Association to weaken the bedrock wildlife law. In June 2016 the Western Governors’ Association adopted a policy resolution led by Wyoming Republican Gov. Matt Mead that would substantially weaken the ESA if adopted; Mead is now seeking to have the entire national association adopt a similar resolution to undermine the Act at the group’s annual winter meeting, which starts Friday in Washington, D.C.
“Republicans in Congress are looking for political cover to repeal the Endangered Species Act, and any endorsement by the national governors to allegedly improve the Act would play into their profit-driven hands,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Governor Mead is no friend of endangered species, and our most vulnerable animals and plants will be lost to extinction if his cynical attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act succeeds.”
States have a fundamental responsibility for management of wildlife within their borders. In nearly all cases, it is only after individual states have failed to maintain healthy populations of wildlife that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protects imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act. Once a species is protected, the Act has demonstrated a 99 percent success rate at preventing species from going extinct. Scientists estimate that without the Act, 227 species would have gone extinct by 2006. Despite this track record, Mead has repeatedly echoed the false claim that the Endangered Species Act is failing.
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“Over the last 42 years, the ESA has been one of our bedrock environmental laws that has helped save iconic wildlife such as the American bald eagle, the whooping crane, and the black-footed ferret from extinction,” said Nicole Paquette, vice president of wildlife protection at The Humane Society of the United States. “The facts demonstrate the effectiveness of the ESA in protecting imperiled wildlife.”
Members of the House of Representatives have launched more than 230 legislative attacks on endangered species since January 2011. In just the past two years, members have introduced more than 130 separate pieces of legislation and amendments designed to eliminate protections for endangered species or weaken the Endangered Species Act itself.
“Governor Mead’s policy recommendations are focused on streamlining environmental regulations for extractive industries, rather that preventing the extinction of our nation’s unique but vanishing wildlife,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “We know the Endangered Species Act works; we need Congress to fund it, not obliterate it.”