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Republican-controlled government sees chance to weaken Endangered Species Act

Megan Geuss
The North American Wolverine could potentially be added to the Endangered Species List due to habitat loss as a result of climate change.
Daniel J. Cox
Republicans and some Democratic Congress members seem poised to weaken the Endangered Species Act under the new Administration, the Washington Post reports. Republican lawmakers especially have complained that the law has been used to improperly stymie drilling, mining, and land development. Although President-elect Trump has not commented extensively on matters concerning the Endangered Species Act, many Republicans are hoping that their efforts to amend the Act will be successful after eight years of trying without luck.
The Post reports that Republicans are suggesting alterations to the Endangered Species Act that would limit lawsuits launched to maintain protections for certain species. Others want to introduce a rule to only allow a species on the endangered list after another species comes off it. Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT), who is the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, told the Post that he would “would love to invalidate” the Endangered Species Act if he can find the support from his colleagues to do so. Ars contacted Rep. Bishop's office for further comment but we have not received a response.
Although Congress unanimously approved the Act in 1973 to save the bald eagle population, the Act has grown more controversial, especially since it’s been used to protect wolf populations. Wolves are disliked by ranchers, who say the wolves attack livestock and cannot be hunted due to protections conferred by the Act. Despite wolves' bad reputation, many environmental advocates and researchers say that the presence of wolves is essential to maintaining wild habitats, creating a “trophic cascade” of hunting and feeding that keep elk in check and consequently help preserve the land those elk feed on.
In 2011, Montana and Idaho were able to get grey wolves off the Endangered Species List in those two states. Just last week, Wyoming Congressman Liz Cheney introduced a bill to remove grey wolves from the list entirely. Congressman Collin C. Peterson (D-MN) and Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) co-sponsored the bill, arguing that states should be left to maintain wolf populations on their own.
The belief that states should have the right to protect endangered species or not has also lead to a lawsuit challenging whether the federal government can protect species that only exist in one state. According to the Texas-based Austin American-Statesman, a rancher recently joined forces with a conservative think-tank to sue the federal government, arguing that it can not place species on the endangered list if the species only exist in one state. The Statesman notes that nearly 70 percent of the species on the Endangered Species List are found only in one state. Those species would lose federal protection if the rancher’s lawsuit is successful.
Industry folks have also taken umbrage with the Act—oil and gas projects have been blocked by the endangerment of the prairie chicken, drilling and mining operations became embroiled in conservation controversy over the habitat of the sage grouse in 2015, and homebuilders complain that the Endangered Species Act prevented them from adding suburban housing projects.
The Act has also drawn criticism from lawmakers that too many species are being protected. The Washington Post notes that more than 1,600 plants and animals are protected by the Endangered Species Act, with hundreds more still up for consideration. “Republicans complain that fewer than 70 have recovered and had protections lifted,” the Post noted.
But the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) counters that the Act is intended to stop species from being wiped out, and it's worked, with 99 percent of the species placed on the List saved from extinction. In early January, the CBD praised Obama’s stewardship of the Act, noting that “32 species have fully or partially recovered under the Obama administration, while another 12 have been proposed as recovered. This means more species were declared recovered under President Obama than in all past administrations combined, since President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law in 1973.”
Republican-controlled government sees chance to weaken Endangered Species Act Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 9:22 PM Rating: 5

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