Policy Update Jul 17, 2018

Position on Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018

NPCA submitted the following position to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ahead of a hearing scheduled for July 17, 2018.

NPCA urges members of the committee to oppose the discussion draft, “Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018,” when it comes before the committee.

National parks provide habitat for more than 500 threatened and endangered species, from Canada Lynx in Yellowstone National Park to the Karner blue butterfly in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to the Spruce-fir moss spider in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Wildlife viewing is one of the top reasons people visit many parks, so the protection of these animals and plants is critical to the vitality of our national parks.

In total, there are 1,662 species listed as threatened or endangered in the United States, including 94 mammals, 165 fishes, and 902 flowering plants. Over 30 of those mammals and over 200 flowering plants find suitable habitat in national parks. Listed amphibians, birds, plants, terrestrial species, and insects, also call national parks home. Just as these species are important components in national park ecosystems, national parks are key to the continued success and sustainability of Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections.

The draft legislation before you on July 17th, proposes to radically weaken the Endangered Species Act which has been the nation’s most effective law protecting wildlife in danger of extinction. Not only does the draft bill undermine the ESA’s reliance on best available science, it also reduces public involvement and agency accountability in the listing process. The bill shields decisions to list and delist species from judicial review, further limiting the public from holding federal decision-makers accountable to the law. This is another example in a long list of attempts by the administration and congress to cut the public out of critical decisions that affect our nation’s wildlife, public lands, air and water.

Additionally, the draft bill prioritizes state leadership over federal involvement on species-specific decision-making. The bill appears to operate under the assumption that state wildlife agencies have equal financial resources and in-house expertise to their federal partners. A 2017 study by the University of California at Irvine School of Law’s Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources found that only 5% of spending on imperiled species is spent by states.1 Yet, the discussion draft before the committee proposes to require states to serve in the driver’s seat on species-specific decision-making processes.

National parks would not be complete without the animals and plants that call them home. The ESA is the most important tool to ensure species vital to the parks are protected for the long term. The draft bill will not serve or promote the ongoing protection of threatened and endangered species. Again, we encourage you to oppose the “Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018.”