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Democrats Are Protesting GOP Changes To The Endangered Species Act

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

Democrats are calling on Republican lawmakers not to move forward with several proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, arguing that the amendments would undermine the protection of at-risk wildlife.

In a letter addressed to numerous House and Senate leaders, Democrats on Tuesday encouraged lawmakers not to pass several amendments within the 2019 Defense Authorization Bill that target the Endangered Species Act.

“Provisions included in the House bill would undermine the science-based decision-making process used to protect all wildlife, plants and fish in danger of extinction under the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” reads a portion of the letter, signed by over 100 Democratic lawmakers. “These are attacks not only on the individual species but on the ESA itself and are out of step with the American public.”

The Endangered Species Act has been criticized for being unsuccessful in repopulating animals placed on its list. Critics point to the ESA’s record of only rehabilitating less than around two percent of the more than 1,600 species listed for federal protection. Other analysts say the figure may actually be much lower.

A bi-partisan group of lawmakers want to improve the ESA by empowering local landowners and state governments.

During a press conference on July 12, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop introduced several reform measures. Bishop equated the ESA’s current success rate to that of baseball.

“I tell you that because the batting average of the Endangered Species Act, the number of species that have been rehabilitated since they were listed … the Endangered Species Act is batting .100, if you round up,” Bishop, a Utah Republican, said during the press conference. “It’s actually .095.” (RELATED: Law Meant To Protect Species From Extinction Is ‘The Most Inept Program’ In Government, Rep. Rob Bishop Says)

The issue was debated extensively during an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing Tuesday morning.

“The discussion draft elevates the role of states in partnering with the federal government in implementing the Endangered Species Act,” the committee’s chairman, Rep. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, said. “It affords states the opportunity to lead wildlife conservation efforts, including through the establishment of recovery teams for listed species in development and implementing recovery plans.”

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