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Elly Pepper’s Blog

Explaining Extinction: Why the Interior Appropriations Bill's Extinction Rider Is So Bad

Elly Pepper

Posted July 13, 2011

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Have you ever tried to explain extinction to a kid? It’s not easy.  You’ll inevitably get questions like:  “There isn’t even one?” “Couldn’t they come back some day?” “So I won’t ever get to see one?” They just can’t fathom that something could be completely erased from nature. 

I can see where they’re coming from—the permanence of extinction is hard to wrap your head around.  And it’s what makes it so disturbing that the GOP is messing with a law that prevents extinction in a must-pass budget bill.  Indeed, the 2012 House Interior Appropriations bill contains a rider that would bar all new listings of endangered species and critical habitat designations (p. 8), but allow the delisting and downlisting of species.  While Rep. Dicks (D-WA) attempted to strike this harmful provision during the Appropriations Committee markup yesterday, his amendment failed by a vote of 23-26 (notably, 3 Republicans – Reps. Dent (R-PA), Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), and Wolf (R-VA) – crossed party lines to support endangered species).  Next stop: a vote by the full House.

In defending the extinction rider, Republicans claim that they’re just trying to modify the Endangered Species Act to make it more effective and more manageable for the Fish and Wildlife Service to implement.  Then why does the provision prevent any new species from being protected and prohibit the Fish and Wildlife Service from doing its job?  Call me crazy, but that sounds like an attempt to make the Act as ineffective as possible!

Members supporting the extinction rider don’t think enough species are being recovered under the Endangered Species Act.  But species driven to the brink of extinction (which is essentially what it takes to receive protection under the Act), aren’t going to recover overnight.  Instead, it takes time and hard work.  Since the Endangered Species Act has only been around since 1973, most listed species haven’t been protected long enough to recover to the point of delisting.  However, thanks to the Act, most of them now have stable populations, which is a huge accomplishment!

turtle swimming.jpg       Photo Courtsey of Fish and Wildlife Service

Republicans also claim that this provision will save money.  Wrong again!  Instead, barring FWS from designating critical habitat for currently listed species would nullify the most effective means of endangered species protection, leading to prolonged recoveries that will cost taxpayers more money in the long run.  Further, preventing listings and critical habitat designations will lead to the extinctions of species that provide us with quantifiable benefits, such as pest control that reduces pesticide costs for farmers.

Obviously, Representatives supporting this terrible rider are listening to oil companies, developers, and corporate polluters—not the American public, the vast majority of which love wildlife.  A Harris Interactive Poll conducted this year found that Americans strongly support the Endangered Species Act.  Indeed, 92% of respondents agreed that decisions about wildlife management and which animals need protection should be made by scientists—not politicians.  Further, 90% agreed that the Endangered Species Act has helped hundreds of species recover from the brink of extinction.  Plus, every year, Americans spend about $18 billion just to watch wildlife.

Kids don’t understand extinction because it’s just so horrible.  On the other hand, politicians don’t understand just how horrible it is.  We must continue to emphasize to them that once these plants and animals are gone, we can’t bring them back.  And we must remind them that if this provision passes, we’re going to have a lot of explaining to do. 

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Daniel CorbinJul 14 2011 09:48 PM

We need to protect our endangered animals.

barb JenningsJul 15 2011 06:23 PM

Forever is a long time. Once they are gone, nature does not have a do over!

EricJul 16 2011 02:38 PM

It has always amazed me how certain individuals offer such little solution to problems that the human environment is effecting to begin with. We have created pockets of the world which

Land and Water Conservation Fund Act sounds very concerning. Page 9 section LAND ACQUISITION among other sections mentions the acquisition of lands which I would would be the equivalent of a buying land that we already possess. Would they not allow the Army core of engineers to continue the monitoring of these lands?

Is this a way to control land for more uses outside of conservation as in the example of 'fracking' in upstate NY. Under protective policies the lands cannot be abused or misused yet there is an 'however' in the laws which allows the ability to explore these lands and resources in search of minerals and fossil fuels. (with no provisions paid to or preventing methane or toxins released from exploratory 'fracking'. These policy makers are adding inexhaustible amounts of money to these bills and the scarey half is each section of the bill the states on all sections "to remain available until expended."

"...until expended." Seems to be an abuse of what could be an open checkbook not making them fully accountable for how they spend the money on these resources as well. Expend the funding so they can turn around and ask for more. Why not STOP the abuse of these resources in the first place which would significantly reduce the amount we need to protect them. How does this relate to the endangered species? Any time political gain finds reason to diminish the value of a life-cycle or species they tell you it is for our own good and the benefits outweigh the problems that it causes. A perfect example of creating a problem to fit THEIR solutions. Man could very well be the next endangered species with populations living near coal refining plants with these plants having no accountability for the pollution they are creating. Or small towns having their ground water supply contaminated with the 'fracking' technique of exploring pockets of natural gas or fossil fuels.

Things like LAND ACQUISITIONS are open doors to allowing private industry to be protected under articles written into bills that have such broad descriptions or functions of use it is clearly difficult to fully understand. Thank you Elli Pepper for being one individual who understands the language of a bill. It is becoming more convincing day after day politicians do care more for the corporate supporters of large companies than they do for the the people who voted them in. Politicians solutions are money and market driven. How about the inexhaustible profit of a sustained resource in the form of a healthy planetary population. Building infrastructure to support those resources are a huge profitable market and squiring such land will only allow them to sell it to large corporations in the future. The endless cycle of government controlled land destroying animal populations, relocating human populations and ultimately destroying another sacred trusts we place in the to begin with.

Eric Veillette

Joseph EngmanJul 16 2011 02:54 PM

Please read this information and look at the photos and then think if that is really what you want spending cuts in the govt. to affect. Remember - as more and more animals and plants become extinct we are contitnually sending ourselves down the road to extinction. Their well being means very much in the way how our well being is to be determined. If we wreck their habitat, we are also wrecking ours!

Jasper DionisioJul 22 2011 12:08 PM

This situation needs to be looked at in it's true context: a lot of the people with power, be they politicians, industry executives, lobbyists, or whatever, are sociopaths. They are not misguided, nor do they fail to understand. They are doing these things intentionally. Some of them simply don't care about animals and just want money. Others actually want animals to die, because it satisfies them. Remember when we were kids, there were certain kids who would be malicious to animals because they found it fun? Those kids grow up. Don't be naive and assume they somehow "got better." They may have learned to hide their malice, but they are still the same malicious people they once were, and bills like this are one of the ways in which they satisfy their desire to do harm.

PamelaJul 22 2011 09:01 PM

I love animals...

Fred PetersonJul 23 2011 12:31 AM

If there are less animals on the planet won't the government spend less money protecting them? Seems logical to me.

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