Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) will chair a House Natural Resources Committee hearing Thursday to orchestrate yet another spurious and highly partisan attack on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for doing its job — protecting rapidly declining species under the Endangered Species Act. The hearing will be the sixth one held to criticize an agreement between the Center and the Fish and Wildlife Service that merely requires the agency to meet its legal requirement to make prompt decisions on whether to protect hundreds of highly imperiled species, many that have been waiting decades for protection under the Act.
“Given the serious threats to our nation’s wildlife and lands from climate change and habitat destruction, it’s truly amazing that Representative Hastings has nothing better to do than to waste taxpayer money holding circus-like hearings over an agreement that simply requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to do its job in a timely manner and make decisions about protecting species,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center. “This agreement is working to get America’s most imperiled plants and animals protected so we can all move forward and start taking actions to address the threats these species face.”
To date the Center’s 2011 agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service has resulted in endangered species protection for 105 species and reduced the backlog of “candidate” species awaiting protection to 146 species, the lowest level in decades. The Endangered Species Act, which became law 40 years ago this month, requires the Service to designate a species as a candidate for listing when there is sufficient scientific information that listing is warranted, but funding is not available to complete listing process. Over the past 40 years, 24 candidate species have gone extinct while waiting for protection under the Act.
Contrary to false assertions from the right, the agreement does not cut states or industry out of the listing process for these candidate species. It simply requires Fish and Wildlife to follow procedures required by the Endangered Species Act on a reasonable timetable over the next six years — a process that includes multiple opportunities for public comment and consultation with state governments.
“Species like the lesser prairie chicken, sage grouse and freshwater fish and mussels of the Southeast are finally on the road to recovery,” said Hartl. “And we know we can save them by protecting them under the Endangered Species Act, which has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the plants and animals it protects.
“The biggest obstacle for these species continues to be Republican efforts to cut funding for endangered species and to interfere in decisions by the Fish and Wildlife Service that should be based on science and not politics.”
In 2011 the Republican House tried, but failed, to limit all funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service to list any species as endangered. Most recently, in July 2013, the Republican House attempted to include a policy rider that would have prevented any species from receiving protection if it was part of the Center’s legal settlement with the Fish and Wildlife Service. More....