House Republicans Seek to Ruthlessly Gut the Endangered Species Act


House Republicans are taking aim at the Endangered Species Act. The effort, spearheaded by Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis and Washington State’s Doc Hastings, both Republicans, is designed to weaken the Act which was signed into law forty years ago by President Richard Nixon. Republican critics of the Endangered Species Act argue that it hampers development and imposes undue burdens on landowners as well as on corporations that engage in logging, mining, and drilling. They also contend that the Endangered Species Act is a failure because not many species have been taken off the list.

However, The Endangered Species Act passed in 1973 and other environmental policies enacted in conjunction with it have been successful in providing for the remarkable recovery of several species of wildlife. Take for example our national bird, the iconic bald eagle. Once near the brink of extinction, this majestic bird has made a dramatic recovery. In 1973, the lower 48 states had fewer than 800 nesting pairs of bald eagles. Now there are over 11,000 breeding pairs, with nests in every one of the lower 48 states.

Likewise, the gray whale, has nearly doubled in population since being listed as endangered in 1973, when the initial act was passed into law. The current population estimate of around 19,000 gray whales is an optimal population that is close to the population of the animals prior to the commercial whaling that decimated their numbers in the early and mid-twentieth century.

Although perhaps less glamorous, the American Alligator was on the brink of extinction in the 1970s. The recovery for this species was so thorough that it was removed from the Endangered Species List in 1987. The United States is now home to around 5 million of these impressive reptiles.

The grizzly bear and the gray wolf have also benefited from some federal protection made possible by provisions contained in the Endangered Species Act. In the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem alone the grizzly has rebounded from estimates of fewer than 200 bears in the 1970s to triple that number today. Wolves have also begun to thrive in the Yellowstone area after a successful reintroduction effort in the 1990s.

Lummis has consistently fought to remove grizzly bears and wolves from the Endangered Species List, even though they are popular draws for tourists who come to observe them in Yellowstone. Lummis refers to those who try to defend America’s wildlife from being pushed to extinction as “radical environmentalists.” However, it is Republican politicians who want to give corporate interests the unfettered ability to exploit nearly every acre of pristine land for profit, while ignoring the impact on wildlife and the environment, who are truly pushing a radical agenda. On behalf of the recovery of the majestic bald eagle, the impressive gray whale, the formidable American alligator, the resplendent gray wolf, and the awe-inspiring grizzly bear, the Endangered Species Act should be left alone, so that America’s wildlife can continue to rebound and thrive.

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