Endangered Species Act Under Attack in US Congress

Date: November 4, 2005
Contact: David Godfrey
Or Dan Evans
Phone: (352) 373-6441

How You Can Help

UPDATE: April 2006 – In a March news interview, Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) said he does not think there will be any Senate action on the ESA this year. Chafee pointed out five key issues that have been the prime sticking points in negotiations with the sponsors of legislation to weaken the ESA, among which are funding, critical habitat and the “jeopardy” standard — a critical provision that determines what actions would so reduce a species’ chances for survival and recovery that they should be prohibited. If the Senate fails to introduce and pass legislation this year, the problematic House legislation would die, though it will most likely be reintroduced in the next Congress.

Chafee is one of four senators — including Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) and Wildlife Subcommittee ranking member Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) — who have been working to draft a bipartisan compromise to revamp ESA. Negotiations are “stuck” on about five issues, Chafee said, including funding, critical habitat and the jeopardy standard. The House approved an ESA rewrite last fall drafted by Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.). The bill, which would eliminate the current act’s critical habitat provisions and give payments to landowners with species on their land, has been criticized by environmentalists and many Democrats. (From Allison A. Freeman and Dan Berman, E&E Daily reporters)


Representative Pombo’s Anti-ESA bill, ironically called the “Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005,” passes in the House of Representatives.

The next step for this bill is for a companion bill to be introduced in the US Senate. Call your Senator today to save the Endangered Species Act!

The Senate will now decide the fate of the Endangered Species Act, so it is important that Senators hear from their constituents asking them to support the existing ESA and oppose any bill that would weaken protections for endangered species and habitat.

Please call your Senator, and urge them to support the Endangered Species Act and oppose any companion bill to Representative Pombo’s Extinction Bill. The Endangered Species Act is a safety net that protects wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction.

US Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121
Just ask for your Senator’s office. To find out who your Senator is, visit www.senate.gov


Analysis of Pombo Bill
Problem with Pombo Bill

Sea turtles are facing a new threat – right in the halls of Congress. The Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed in 1973 to prevent declining species, such as sea turtles, from going extinct, is under attack again from anti-environment legislators and lobbyists for industries that are inconvenienced with having to accommodate imperiled species. The ESA has been the single most important tool in the protection and recovery of sea turtles in the United States and its waters. Despite claims by those attacking this landmark legislation, the ESA helped bring back many species on the brink of extinction – including America’s national symbol, the bald eagle.

Led by long-term critic of the ESA, Representative Richard Pombo (R-CA), new legislation has been passed in the US House of Representatives that would completely reverse U.S. policy toward habitat and species conservation. Conservationists, scientists and environmental regulators have quickly labeled Pombo’s legislation as the “Extinction Bill” and are gearing up for a major battle to save the Endangered Species Act. Blocking the “Extinction Bill” could be one of the most significant battles of the conservation movement in almost 30 years.

“If you write or call your legislators about only one bad environmental bill this year, this is the one to get mad about,” said David Godfrey, STC Executive Director. “Sea turtles, in particular, will be devastated if Pombo’s radical bill guts the Endangered Species Act.”

In an effort to get the word out about this threat to the ESA, STC arranged a tour for Florida reporters to visit the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, where the effectiveness of the ESA can be seen first-hand. Since its passage in the 70s, the ESA has led to fishing regulations that save thousands of sea turtles each year and encouraged the acquisition of important nesting habitat like that in the Carr Refuge.

Representative Pombo’s Extinction Bill would gut the Endangered Species Act on behalf of developers, oil companies, timber companies, mining companies and extreme property rights groups. The bill would:

  • Eliminate critical habitat: Species with designated critical habitat are recovering twice as fast as species without it. Pombo’s bill completely eliminates critical habitat. Critical habitat is one of the most important and successful tools in the conservation toolbox. If we don’t protect the places species call home, they will never recover.
  • Politicize scientific decisions: The Endangered Species Act requires that all decisions be made on basis of the best available scientific information-what constitutes the best science is left up to the scientific community. Pombo’s bill allows the Secretary of Interior, a political appointee, to define the best science and to unilaterally overturn, with no public or scientific review, any decision she deems to not fit her definition. Science should be determined by scientists, not political appointees.
  • Eliminate independent oversight: The Endangered Species Act requires that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or NOAA Fisheries independently review federal actions which may harm endangered species. Pombo’s bill allows the Secretary of Interior, a political appointee, to exempt individual projects or entire classes of projects from independent oversight. Rep. Pombo’s bill takes unbiased, professional wildlife and fisheries experts out of the equation.
  • Weaken recovery efforts: The Endangered Species Act requires that federal recovery plans be implemented by federal agencies, and that species be protected until they are fully recovered. Pombo’s bill allows federal agencies to ignore recovery plans and requires that species be delisted within individual states even though the species as whole is tumbling toward extinction. Rep. Pombo’s bill will fragment recovery efforts, throwing the Endangered Species Act’s holistic approach out the window.
  • Allow projects that harm species: The Endangered Species Act is a “look before you leap” law. It requires that all actions which may push species toward extinction be reviewed before they are implemented. Pombo’s bill reverses the order. It requires that destructive projects go forward with no review unless federal agencies object within 90-days.
  • Bankrupt the Endangered Species Act by requiring the federal government to pay landowners to not violate the law. This not only would have a tremendous negative impact on the federal budget, it would set a precedent to require the government to pay developers for any profits lost to environmental protections, and it would reward developers who plan the maximum and most potentially profitable projects for the most ecologically important habitat. In short, it begs developers to plan projects that allow them to extort payment from the government. The conservation community supports reasonable incentives for landowners who take proactive actions that significantly contribute to the recovery of endangered and threatened species.

The real purpose of this bill is to gut the Endangered Species Act. The ESA is a safety net that protects wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction. It has been enormously successful in preventing the extinction of hundreds of species, including bald eagles, gray wolves, Pacific salmon and sea turtles. We must not diminish protections for these magnificent animals or for the habitats they depend upon to survive.


Please Contact Your Senator To Oppose A Senate Version of Rep. Pombo’s Bill!

It is critical that members of Congress stand up for our natural heritage and oppose this scheme to repeal the protections that the Endangered Species Act provides. Please call your Senator in Congress, and ask them to oppose any bill that would weaken the protections of the Endangered Species Act.

Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Legislator’s office.

Look up your Senators at: www.senate.gov

Talking points
  • I am calling to ask you to support for the Endangered Species Act and oppose any bill that would weaken protections for endangered species and habitat.
  • Representative Richard Pombo’s bill will aggressively strip the Endangered Species Act of its strongest protections. Representative Pombo is controversial and out of step with the American public’s support of the Endangered Species Act.
  • For over thirty years, the Endangered Species Act has been a safety net for wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction. It has been successful in preventing the extinction of the American Bald Eagle, the gray wolf, the pacific salmon, (or other local species) as well as many other species.
  • The Endangered Species Act stands for fundamental principles that we all believe in and cannot allow to be weakened or removed. In fact, 86% of Americans support the Endangered Species Act.
  • Please support the Endangered Species Act and oppose any bill that would weaken protections for endangered species and habitat.

TheSea Turtle Conservancy is a member of the www.endangered.org. Thanks for their efforts and background information on this bill.