U.S. Capitol

House of Representatives uses Interior Spending Bill to Wage War on the ESA

Last week was a doozy.
On Capitol Hill, we saw an unprecedented attack on a wide range of our nation’s wildlife and wild places. Using the Interior Spending bill, the House put forward a series of destructive riders (amendments to the bill) to threaten imperiled wildlife, undermine the Endangered Species Act and block vital environmental protections.

sage-grouse, © Margaret Sloan

With so much at stake, voices spoke out from every direction against these riders. The Administration threatened to veto the bill, a coalition of 39 organizations wrote to Congress opposing them, and most importantly of all, representatives heard from YOU, their constituents. We put out the call to contact your representatives about these riders, and you answered in spades. Whatever the goal of certain politicians and the industries and special interests that fund them, the people were speaking up.
Just a few of the 15 riders harmful to wildlife and endangered species would:
  • Strip ESA protections from a number of species, including gray wolves, northern long-eared bat, lesser prairie chicken, Prebles meadow jumping mouse and six species of mussels.
  • Prevent other imperiled species from being protected under the ESA – such as the greater sage-grouse and Sonoran desert tortoise – even if scientists determined they needed ESA protection.
  • Ignore recommendations from scientists to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas development, and allowed drilling to move forward.
  • Block tougher block tougher restrictions on the ivory trade, benefiting elephant poachers and ivory smugglers at the cost of elephants’ lives.
  • Remove protections for bald and golden eagles as well as hundreds of other migratory birds including cranes, hawks, falcons, and songbirds.
Bald eagle, © Miriam Stein

The entire process has come to a screeching halt for now, after a disagreement over non-environmental riders caused the House to throw the bill out entirely, riders and all. So what happens next?
The good news is that the anti-wildlife riders will go nowhere – for now. The bad news is that even though this terrible Interior bill may never pass the House, the bill and its amendments will most likely be used as a basis for negotiations with the Senate and the administration on both the riders and final agency spending levels this fall. Fortunately, the lack of House approval may weaken the hand of House negotiators in talks with the Senate and administration.

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If you were one of the many people who called or wrote to your representative to speak out against the attacks on our nation’s wildlife – we cannot thank you enough. Even though the bill has been pulled, it’s impossible to overstate how important it is for your elected officials to hear from you, especially on the issues that matter most. In fact, one anti-wildlife measure that would have blocked enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was withdrawn altogether!

The Interior Spending bill may have stalled, but it has hardly been the only threat to wildlife to come out of this Congress. To date, there have been over 75 bills, proposals and amendments that specifically threaten endangered species alone. Our team of policy experts is continuing to fight for wildlife and habitat as other bills and proposals make their way through Capitol Hill. Thank you for joining us in this latest battle! We hope we can count on you in the others to come.