The Endangered Species Act turns 50: Congress is working to weaken it

The Endangered Species Act turns 50: Congress is working to weaken it
June 2, 2023 Michigan Public

By Lester Graham, Michigan Radio

The Great Lakes News Collaborative includes Bridge Michigan; Circle of Blue; Great Lakes Now at Detroit Public Television; and Michigan Radio, Michigan’s NPR News Leader; who work together to bring audiences news and information about the impact of climate change, pollution, and aging infrastructure on the Great Lakes and drinking water. This independent journalism is supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Find all the work HERE.

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.

Here are 2020 stories from the Washington Post and NPR about the Trump regulations regarding habitat.

“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.

Catch more news at Great Lakes Now:

Anishinaabe tribes work to save a fish significant to their culture and an important source of protein

EPA wants Native American tribes to implement water quality standards equivalent to the Clean Water Act’s requirements

Featured image: The American bald eagle is one of the success stories of the 50 year old Endangered Species Act. Congress is working at removing protections of other wildlife on the threatened and endangered list. (Photo Credit: Lester Graham/Michigan Radio)


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *