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Congress Introduces Bill to Protect Endangered Species, Reverse Trump’s ‘Extinction Plan’

The “Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish in Need of Conservation Act of 2019,” or the PAW and FIN Conservation Act, would repeal the Trump administration’s reckless regulations gutting the ESA.

Congress introduced critical legislation this month to repeal new regulations that dramatically weaken the Endangered Species Act, or ESA.

Introduced by House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (AZ) and Senator Tom Udall (NM), the “Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish in Need of Conservation Act of 2019,” or the PAW and FIN Conservation Act, would repeal the Trump administration’s reckless regulations gutting the ESA.

“The ESA is our most effective law for protecting wildlife in danger of extinction,” said Development Associate Stepph Sharpe. “At a time of catastrophic species decline—with the potential for one million species facing extinction by the end of the century—we should be increasing protections for wildlife, not eviscerating them.”

In addition to resulting in fewer protections for species and their habitats, the Trump administration’s proposals for changes to the Endangered Species Act regulations will:

  • Open the door for the economic impacts of listing a species to be evaluated and presented in the listing rules. 
  • Eliminate a rule extending the ESA’s prohibition on “take” to threatened species.
  • Adopt a narrow definition of “foreseeable future,” allowing federal agencies to blind themselves to scientific evidence of long-term threats to species’ survival.
  • Make it harder to designate critical habitat necessary for the conservation and recovery of listed species.
  • Allow federal agencies to blind themselves to the broad consequences of their actions through changes to the consultation requirements of section 7 of the Act, that requires that a federal agency that is funding, authorizing or conducting an activity consult with FWS or NMFS to ensure that the activity does not jeopardize the continued existence of endangered or threatened species or destroy their critical habitat.

For 30 years, Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) has lead the fight to prevent marine animals from going extinct, and is currently suing the Trump administration for permitting a new longline fishery in the Pacific Ocean despite a federal ban on longline gear created in 2004 to protect sea turtles. In 2017, TIRN joined more than 420 conservation organizations in signing a letter to Congress opposing any weakening of the Endangered Species Act.

The ESA is a remarkably successful law: 99% of species listed under the ESA have not gone extinct, and the ESA continues to enjoy bipartisan support across the country. Members of the public submitted hundreds of thousands of comments decrying Trump’s proposed changes during a public comment period earlier this year.

Currently, 36 members of Congress have co-sponsored these bills. Additional original cosponsors include Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.), Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D- D.C.), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Harris), Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).