18 December 2015
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is widely considered the most comprehensive law in the world for protecting imperiled species and their habitat. But little is known about how federal agencies use one of the most important tools of the law—Section 7 consultations. This commonsense, look-before-you-leap clause requires all federal agencies to ensure that the actions they fund, authorize, or carry out are not likely to “jeopardize” a species or “destroy or adversely modify” critical habitat. While opponents of the ESA often claim that Section 7 stifles economic development and harms thousands of jobs, a new analysis– the first to systematically evaluate how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has implemented Section 7 over an extended timeframe and across all listed species –found a much different reality. The study, written by Defenders of Wildlife staff and published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that out of more than 88,000 proposed projects evaluated by the Service during the past seven years, not one was stopped because of the Service finding that it would threaten a species’ survival. Clearly, the 88 legislative attacks on the ESA proposed since January, which would block or remove protections for America’s most imperiled wildlife and undermine the strength and effectiveness of the Act, don’t match these facts. For a more detailed read about this study and its implications for species conservation, we encourage you to read some excellent news coverage in Science, Newsweek and The Washington Post.
Victory for wildlife: Congress strikes an omnibus funding deal free of catastrophic anti-Endangered Species Act riders
Our allies in Congress and the Administration, aided by a major advocacy effort by Defenders and other groups, kept an unprecedented number of anti-environment riders and measures threatening endangered species and lands out of the omnibus funding bill. The original House and Senate bills covering the Department of the Interior and related agencies were rife with anti-environmental policy provisions that would have undermined fundamental protections for our air, land, water and wildlife. Thanks to our yearlong advocacy efforts, no harmful ESA provisions were included in the final bill except for a sage-grouse rider that carried over from last year. A big thank you to all of our members who helped us throughout this year by contacting their representatives, telling them to keep such damaging riders out of unrelated spending legislation. Our work clearly paid off!
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launches closed door series of Mexican gray wolf recovery workshops
This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a new series of Mexican gray wolf recovery planning workshops with state officials from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah and some scientists. At some point, each of these four states has worked against wolf recovery. Arizona Game and Fish asked Congress to remove all federal protections for Mexican gray wolves when there were only 50 wild lobos in the entire world and now forbids all releases of adult wolves in the state. Colorado is currently considering a ban on Mexican gray wolf reintroduction, with the Parks and Wildlife Commission expected to vote on the proposal in January. New Mexico’s game commission recently tried to block all future lobo releases in the state. Utah has voiced its disdain for hosting any wolf populations. The governors appear deaf to their citizens, the majority of whom overwhelmingly support wolves and wolf restoration. This is particularly clear in polling from New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. These new workshops are puzzling though, since the Service already appointed a Mexican gray wolf recovery team in 2010.
The team’s scientists provided recovery criteria and draft recovery plans based on the best available science. In light of these past efforts, the new workshops raise an important question: Why start over when the recovery team’s scientists have already made recommendations for what is needed for recovery? The Mexican gray wolf is the most endangered gray wolf in the world. The Service must be willing to stand up to political pressure and stick with the best available science to recover the Mexican gray wolf!