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Greenwald: Let the Endangered Species Act do its job

Greenwald: Let the Endangered Species Act do its job

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Imagine a doctor prescribes you antibiotics for several days or weeks. You do not feel better the first day, so you stop taking it. Unsurprisingly, you continue to be sick.

That is how some Republicans in Congress view the success – and it is hugely successful – of the Endangered Species Act.

These Republicans say the act has not saved enough species, but they are wrong. And their argument for dismantling one of the world’s most successful environmental laws is illogical at best. Here’s why.

It has taken decades if not longer to drive many endangered animals to the edge of extinction. Expecting their numbers to recover any faster than they declined is ridiculous and unscientific.

As wonderful as it would be, the idea that animals can somehow reproduce faster than in the past is fantasy, especially in the face of rapid habitat loss through land development and a changing climate.

Even with those challenges, the Endangered Species Act has saved more than 99 percent of the animals that have received its critical protections and put hundreds more on the road to recovery, something that would never have happened without the protections afforded by the Act in its current state.

As it stands, most species that have received federal protections are bouncing back at the expected recovery rate set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Not only have populations of such iconic animals as bald eagles and humpback whales recovered thanks to the Act, species continue to be delisted.

In fact, more animals and plants were recovered and delisted under President Barack Obama’s administration than under all other presidencies combined since the Endangered Species Act was signed into law in 1973, including incredible species like the black-capped vireo and lesser long-nosed bat.

Despite all the evidence, some Republicans, particularly in the West, are working to undermine the preservation of America’s natural heritage. They would rather roll back regulations and let powerful industries further degrade habitat for our most imperiled wildlife. And they hope to accomplish those regulatory roll-backs by misinforming the American public.

As endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, I am deeply troubled by this trend.

Some congressional leaders are outspoken about their contempt for America’s treasures, while others are more underhanded.

Wyoming’s own Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican, recently held the first of what will likely be several hearings to rewrite the Endangered Species Act under the guise of wanting to improve it.

But for anyone watching Barrasso’s hearing, it was clear he wants to gut the Act if not abolish it altogether. A quick glance at his treatment of endangered animals is enough to reveal his true motives.

Barrasso’s voting record on endangered species is dismal. Since entering the Senate in 2008, he has voted against endangered species protections at nearly every opportunity. It’s hard not to connect that dismal record to the fact the oil and gas industry has contributed $1.72 million to his war chest since 2012 alone.

Meanwhile, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) has candidly admitted in public that he “would be happy to invalidate” the Act.

Either way they present it, their goals are clear: compromise ecosystem and environmental health for the fossil fuel and industry interests they serve.

But Americans have shown they value wildlife and public lands. They will not just sit by as their natural inheritance is destroyed. Corporate shills in Congress need to let the Endangered Species Act do its job and stop trying to undermine this important law.

Noah Greenwald directs the Center for Biological Diversity’s endangered species program.


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