The GOP is rushing to reform the Endangered Species Act before Democrats potentially take control of Congress during the midterm elections. The ESA has protected vulnerable endangered species for 45 years, but the proposed reforms will protect the interests of fossil fuel and agriculture companies instead. Big surprise, there.
Democrats are threatening to take over Congress in November, and Republicans are scrambling to get something, anything, done before that happens. In the past two weeks, Republicans have introduced or voted on over two dozen pieces of legislation that would restrict the ESA. These new attacks on endangered species are being lead by leaders of the fossil fuel industry, agricultural groups, builders’ associations and ranchers … shocker.
A few of the endangered species that are being targeted by the GOP include the sage grouse, the American burying beetle and the gray wolf. The sage grouse is a small bird around the size of a chicken that currently lives on acres of oil-rich land in the Western U.S. The GOP wishes to remove the bird from the endangered species list for at least the next decade. This would ultimately ensure access to oil as well as the possible extinction of the bird. The American burying beetle is also blocking the GOP from accessing their lobbyists’ beloved oil, and they intend to destroy that species as well, if at all possible. Also on the list of targeted animals is the gray wolf, which inhabits Wyoming and the western Great Lakes. The proposed legislation would strip all protections of the gray wolves, a species that has been highlighted at the Smithsonian National Zoo exhibit titled “American Trail.”
Many Republicans argue that the ESA protections restrict “economic development and American’s livelihoods.” On Thursday, the Interior Department and the Commerce Department proposed fundamental changes to the ESA that would allow the government to weigh the “economic consequences” when analyzing if a plant or animal should be protected. If passed, species that are already on the list would remain unharmed, for now, but it would be much more difficult to add a new species to the list.
The Western Energy Alliance is a lobbying group that has pushed for Congress to reform endangered species protections. The group’s president Kathleen Sgamma said, “There were decades of ineffectiveness of the Endangered Species Act and here’s the possibility that something might be able to be done now.”
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) is the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and of course, is in support of the changes. Bishop said:
The Endangered Species Act is the most inept program we have in the federal government. It’s a wonderful goal, but it doesn’t have an idea of what its goals actually are or where it’s going to be met or when it can actually be successful.
Congress currently has over a dozen proposals for ESA reform, and they all include multiple last-minute agendas tacked on as they attempt to make their way to a vote. There seems to be an overwhelming amount of sloppy, thrown-together proposals by panicked Republicans who may lose their seats in November. The senior vice president for conservation at Defenders of Wildlife, Bob Dreher, spoke to the Republican’s last ditch efforts when he said,
There’s a sense that we are surrounded on all sides, but I don’t see that as carefully coordinated. I think it’s just a whole lot of people trying to take advantage of the opportunities ahead. That they do have control of Congress, and on the House side there is a risk that Republicans could lose in the fall. A lot of this is congressmen wanting to take something home for a midterm election.