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Dingell Leads Bill to Protect Endangered Species, Reverse Trump’s Changes That Will Add to Extinction Crisis

Washington, September 19, 2019

WASHINGTON DC – Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced the Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish in Need of Conversation Act of 2019. This legislation would repeal all three Trump administration final rule changes to the Endangered Species Act, which taken together will fundamentally change the way we protect threatened and endangered species.

Under Trump’s rules, the Administration can ignore long-term threats to wildlife from climate change and remove guaranteed protections to threatened species listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, essentially nullifying the protective value of a threatened listing. When the Trump administration first announced the final rules change, Dingell blasted the Administration for their actions.

“The Endangered Species Act is among the most effective ever passed. For more than 40 years, we have come together in bipartisan fashion to protect species critical to maintaining the balance of our wildlife,” said Dingell. “The Administration’s efforts to weaken Endangered Species protections are taking us in the wrong direction. We must work together to uphold and build upon the successes of the Endangered Species Act.” 

Dingell has long advocated for the protection of endangered species. Earlier this year, Congresswoman Dingell reintroduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA). RAWA is the most significant investment in wildlife and habitat conservation in a generation. RAWA would dedicate roughly $1.4 billion to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program for proactive, voluntary efforts led by the states, territories and tribal nations to prevent vulnerable wildlife from becoming endangered.

“We are in the middle of an extinction crisis, and President Trump is bulldozing the most important tool we have to protect endangered species,” said Chair Grijalva. “If we want to protect species close to extinction, Congress has no choice but to act. Trump’s changes are handouts to special interests that want to keep lining their pockets regardless of the consequences. If we don’t stop the Trump administration’s short-sighted rollbacks, more wildlife habitats will be sacrificed to oil and gas development.”

“The Endangered Species Act has been a pillar of environmental protection in this nation for 40 years, without which our most iconic species— including the bald eagle, the gray whale, and the grizzly bear— would likely be extinct,” said Senator Udall. “The Trump administration’s new regulations intentionally cripple the ESA – another giveaway to industry that puts near-term profits ahead of our long-term national interest. The Trump effort to gut the Endangered Species Act turns a blind eye to the science that tells us we should be enhancing wildlife habitat protections not dismantling them at the behest of special interests, at a time when human activity threatens one million species with extinction and the United States is losing a football field worth of natural land every 30 seconds. Stopping this rollback of the Endangered Species Act is critical to restoring the best tools we have for protecting our precious plants and wildlife.”

“Huge numbers of key species face unprecedented threats, and we have a moral obligation to do everything in our power to protect them,” said Rep. Beyer. “The Trump Administration’s attacks on the Endangered Species Act are designed to benefit special interests, not the thousands of animal and plant species in the United States at risk of extinction due to habitat loss. With this legislation we are taking a major step to preserve biodiversity and protect imperiled wildlife.”

The ESA is a remarkably successful law: 99% of species listed under the ESA have not gone extinct, and the ESA continues to enjoy bipartisan support across the country. Members of the public submitted hundreds of thousands of comments decrying Trump’s proposed changes during a public comment period earlier this year.

Additional original cosponsors include Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.), Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D- D.C.), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Harris), Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

The legislation is supported by a broad coalition of organizations.

“The American people were horrified by the Trump administration’s efforts to destroy the Endangered Species Act, so it’s heartening to see such strong pushback from Congress. This legislation should be passed as soon as possible so the cruel attacks on wildlife by President Trump can be tossed into the dust heap of history.” – Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

"Now is not the time to ignore science and gamble away the nation's natural history and heritage over some misguided anti-Endangered Species Act agenda. Climate change and a wave of other threats are wiping out species across the globe right now. This critical legislation would rightfully revoke the Trump administration’s reckless rollback of our most important law for protecting our most imperiled species." – Nora Apter, Deputy Director of Federal Affairs, Natural Resources Defense Council.

“In the face of an extinction crisis, the Trump administration is shredding protections and shoving vulnerable wildlife closer to the cliff. Today, leaders in the House of Representatives have introduced a bill that rejects those destructive actions and protects the Endangered Species Act, the last safety net for many imperiled species.” – Marjorie Mulhall, Legislative Director for Lands, Wildlife, and Oceans, Earthjustice.

“With numerous species in the United States teetering at the edge of extinction, it’s more important than ever that we safeguard the Endangered Species Act. Yet last month, at the behest of corporate interests, the Trump administration weakened it instead. This crucial legislation reverses those changes and restores one of our nation’s key animal protection laws.” – Stephen Wells, Executive Director, Animal Legal Defense Fund.

“With the world in the grip of a biodiversity crisis, this is the worst possible time to hamstring the Endangered Species Act with reckless and irresponsible rule changes. America needs congressional leaders to step up and ensure that America’s endangered species get the strong, science-based protections they need to survive, and with the PAW and FIN ACT, we see the leadership and restored legislative protections that our imperiled wildlife deserve.” –  Erik Molvar, Executive Director, Western Watersheds Project.

“The ‘Trump Extinction Plan’ finalized last month makes it harder to protect our nation’s imperiled wildlife, such as the monarch butterfly, sea turtles, and wolverines.  We know Americans strongly support wildlife and the Endangered Species Act, and we are heartened to see that support reflected in the bills introduced today in Congress.” – Leda Huta, Executive Director, Endangered Species Coalition.

“Consideration of economic impacts in listing decisions would undermine the Endangered Species Act, which is recognized as the world’s leading policy framework for protecting and recovering endangered and threatened species, such as gorillas, elephants, tigers and snow leopards. The Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society applauds the leadership of Chairman Grijalva in introducing the PAWS and FIN Act to ensure that the hallmark standard for listing and delisting decisions is based upon the best available scientific information.” – Kelly Keenan Aylward, Washington Director, Wildlife Conservation Society.

“Chairman Grijalva, Congressman Beyer, and Congresswoman Dingell’s PAW and FIN Act is a timely response to the administration’s attempt to drastically undermine this crucial conservation law. The Trump administration’s regulatory changes are designed to make it easier for industry to steamroll past Endangered Species Act protections afforded to imperiled species and their habitats. It’s wildlife on the brink of extinction – not industry – that needs help, and this bill sets those priorities straight.” – Cathy Liss, President, Animal Welfare Institute.

“We thank Rep. Grijalva for his leadership in addressing the increasing challenges of climate change and its effects on wildlife. Restoring the nation’s most effective tool for saving wildlife from extinction is absolutely vital, especially as world scientists warn of mass extinction. We encourage fast passage of this important safety net for our nation’s imperiled species.” – Kirin Kennedy Deputy Legislative Director Sierra Club.

“The National Parks Conservation Association applauds legislation introduced today that defends the Endangered Species Act from ongoing attacks by the Trump administration. As the climate crisis unfolds, the administration is busy prioritizing near-term industrial development over long-term protections for America’s fish and wildlife. NPCA is committed to advancing this legislation in Congress while continuing to fight the Trump administration’s attack on threatened and endangered species in the courts.” – Bart Melton, Wildlife Program Director, National Parks Conservation Association

“The extinction crisis is a real and present threat to the ecosystems we depend on. This legislation would guarantee that our most powerful environmental law—the Endangered Species Act—remains a strong protector of the most vulnerable species on our planet.” – Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate, WildEarth Guardians.    

“Keeping the ESA strong is critical if we are to ensure the survival of our most beloved species that are so important to our ecological and cultural heritage. We applaud Sen. Udall and Rep. Grijalva for taking action against the USFWS’s egregious rules to cut Endangered Species Act protections for our most vulnerable and vital species.” – Sara Amundson, President, Humane Society Legislative Fund.

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