Bill Would Also Halt Limits in Toxic Fishing Gear in Exchange for Near-meaningless Symbolic Legislation
WASHINGTON— Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) joined forces with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to introduce legislation today that would end Endangered Species Act protections for thousands of wolves in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming and prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from ever addressing lead poisoning from fishing gear.
In exchange the legislation would reauthorize several conservation programs like the North America Wetlands Conservation Act — a procedural action by Congress that has no real-world impact on funding levels.
Barrasso, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has sponsored or cosponsored eight bills attacking the Endangered Species Act since 2015 and voted against the Act nearly a dozen times since 2011.
“Killing wolves and poisoning lakes and rivers with lead pollution does not help wildlife, but will severely tarnish Senator Cardin’s conservation legacy,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Why a Democrat like Cardin would accept this terribly lopsided deal at the same time the Trump administration is attempting to destroy 40 years of environmental protections is simply stupefying.”
The “Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act,’’ or “HELP” Wildlife Act, contains multiple conservation programs, including the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, the Chesapeake Bay Program and the North America Wetlands Conservation Act. However, reauthorization has no bearing on whether Congress ultimately allocates funding to a program in a given year. According to the Congressional Budget Office, more than 260 major laws have had their authorizations expire and continue to receive funding. These programs constitute over half of the non-defense budget each year.
“This legislation won’t help conservation on the ground anywhere — not a single animal or plant will benefit from this horrible legislation,” said Hartl. “Sadly Cardin is trading killing thousands of wolves for a largely symbolic effort to help Chesapeake Bay. This is a disaster.”