The omnibus appropriations bill approved by Congress did not include new policy provisions or amendments that would have weakened the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
The riders had included attacks on protections for particular species, and targeted key portions of the overall ESA, including interagency consultation requirements and citizen enforcement of the act. Another rider would have not only congressionally delisted the Great Lakes and Wyoming wolves, but it would have also blocked any future lawsuits, even if these wolves once again become gravely imperiled, according to the Endangered Species Coalition.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the spending bill forbids the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing sage grouse. It also appropriated funds for the border wall, which would impact wildlife.
Friends of Animals has been writing to and meeting with federal lawmakers for months to make sure they opposed any efforts to weaken ESA. The law is credited with saving our national symbol, the bald eagle, from extinction along with numerous other species, including the American alligator, humpback whale, and the brown pelican.
FoA has had some recent victories of its own in terms of getting species protected under the ESA. Just last year, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2014 decision by a federal district judge in Utah that sought to strip the Utah prairie dog of federal protection under the ESA, a case FoA intervened in.
And last December, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it would finalize an Obama-era proposal to list the daggernose shark, Brazilian guitarfish, striped smoothhound shark, spiny angel shark and Argentine angel shark as endangered species, and the narrownose smoothhound shark as a threatened species under the ESA. FoA was part of the coalition that commented in support of the listing.
In 2014, scalloped hammerhead sharks became the first species of shark to be protected by the ESA. That move come came in response to a 2011 petition from FoA and WildEarth Guardians.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 was a landmark conservation law that passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support (92-0 in the Senate, and 394-4 in the House). Polling over the past decade indicates this Act maintains strong, bipartisan, public support even today. More than 1,300 imperiled species of plants, fish and wildlife in the United States have been protected by the Endangered Species Act, and only 10 have gone extinct, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (Most of those were already extinct or functionally extinct by the time they were put on the list.) Additionally, a 2012 study found that 90 percent of protected species are recovering at the pace expected in their scientific recovery plans, according to the Coalition.