WASHINGTON— Senate Republicans today attacked the gray wolf, lesser prairie chicken and the Endangered Species Act by attaching more than a dozen poison-pill riders to legislation to fund the Department of the Interior for 2018.
The riders introduced by Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowsi (R-Alaska) include a provision that would end protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes states despite two court decisions upholding protections for this endangered species. The legislation would also prohibit the Fish and Wildlife Service from taking any action to save the lesser prairie chicken from extinction.
“Senate Republicans just launched a disgusting sneak attack on America’s most imperiled wildlife,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This legislation is deeply out of touch with the American people, who overwhelmingly support endangered wildlife. The Republican riders are a cynical effort to advance special interests at the expense of animals on the brink of extinction.”
The legislation also seeks to weaken the consultation process on Forest Service lands by eliminating a long-standing requirement to consider how to minimize harms to newly listed species and their critical habitat on those lands. Under the legislation, the Forest Service would only have to consult when it writes or revises its land management plans — actions that occur only once every few decades.
The 9th Circuit held in the 2015 Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service that the Forest Service had to reinitiate consultation after critical habitat on federal lands was designated for the Canada lynx rather than waiting until its next land management plan revision.
These consultations normally only take a few months to complete, but provide important conservation benefits including revised monitoring and mitigation measures. For example, in June of this year, the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service completed a Cottonwood-type consultation in just 10 days on nine national forests in the Sierra Nevada region following the designation of critical habitat for the Yosemite toad and Sierra Nevada and mountain yellow-legged frogs.
“Senator Murkowski seems happy to let wildlife go extinct if it helps the timber industry or other polluters make more profits on our public lands. This bill should be rejected as the travesty it is,” said Hartl.
Since January Congressional Republicans have introduced at least 60 attacks against the Endangered Species Act or particular endangered species. Since the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 2011, more than 325 attacks have been launched. These attacks continue despite the fact that nine out of 10 Americans support the Endangered Species Act and want it either strengthened or left unchanged by Congress, according to a 2015 poll.