The Endangered Species Act turns 50: Congress is working to weaken it
Congress has been working to remove some protections under the Endangered Species Act, which turns 50 years old this month.
Using the Congressional Review Act, the Senate voted to overturn Endangered Species Act decisions three times. The first was about the lesser prairie chicken, a bird in the Great Plains. It’s numbers have plummeted from hundreds of thousands to fewer than 30,000 counted in surveys last year.
The Senate also voted to change two other decisions.
“A rule on defining habitat under the Endangered Species Act from 2020. And the second was overturning a rule that listed the long-eared bat as endangered,” said Mike Leahy, senior director on wildlife policy for the National Wildlife Federation.
In their range, which includes Michigan, 97% of northern long-eared bats have been wiped out by white-nose syndrome.
The vote on habitat would stop a Biden Administration move to undo a last-minute Trump Administration rule. The Trump rule restricted how habitat could be defined, putting the long term future of threatened and endangered species at further risk.
Leahy feels the Trump regulation doesn’t make sense because it does not take into account habitat that is need of restoration. It also does not include habitat that threatened and endangered species might need because their range shifts because of climate change or other factors.
“So we appear to have entered a new space, hopefully short lived space, where Congress casually steps in to override biologists and science and existing law. And this raises a number of problems and concerns,” Leahy said during an online webinar.
Leahy said it appeared the House was ready to vote in the same way in the coming days.
The only time Congress has stepped in like this before was to take wolves off the Endangered Species list in Montana and Idaho in 2011.