For Immediate Release
House Interior Appropriations Bill Loaded with Anti-Wildlife Riders
The House of Representatives passed an Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 6147) today that includes several extremely damaging provisions that would attack imperiled wildlife and undermine the strength of the Endangered Species Act. It also includes as a provision that would allow genetically engineered crops to be grown in national wildlife refuges where farming is permitted and provides funding for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s misguided and illegal plan to reorganize the Department of the Interior.
Statement from Robert Dewey, Vice President of Government Relations for Defenders of Wildlife:
“The House of Representatives passed an Interior Appropriations Bill saddled with anti-wildlife provisions that undermine the Endangered Species Act and derail land and wildlife conservation.
“These riders are a gross concession to states and agricultural and other special interests and have no place in must-pass legislation that is supposed to guide the funding and stewardship of our air, lands, waters and wildlife.
“Although the House rejected one anti-ESA rider during this week’s floor debate, they added four more by amendment, bringing the total number of anti-ESA riders in the bill to 12. Among the other damaging riders added to the bill is one that would allow genetically engineered crops on wildlife refuges, undermining the biological integrity of the principal system of lands reserved for wildlife and habitat.
“While we were heartened that one amendment that would have blocked funding for the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse was rejected, it does not absolve the litany of anti-wildlife riders in this bill. Scientists, not Congress, should decide which species need protection.
“We urge Congress to pass a clean Interior bill that is not only free of these insidious riders, but also fully funds vital conservation programs. These provisions have no place in an Interior Appropriations Bill designed to preserve our nation’s heritage and wildlife, not destroy it.”
The Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.R. 6147) has been loaded with many provisions that would be harmful to our lands and wildlife, in particular amendments that prevent or remove protection for individual species. Additionally, the bill also funds Interior Secretary Zinke’s misguided and illegal plan to reorganize the Department of the Interior.
The following amendment offered on the House floor was rejected:
Amendment #60 offered by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM): This amendment would block federal funding for the endangered New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse under the ESA, thwarting recovery efforts for the rare southwestern subspecies, which has suffered a significant reduction in occupied localities due to habitat loss and fragmentation throughout its range. It would eliminate crucial recovery programs for the mouse that require federal funding, such as development and approval of Habitat Conservation Plans, and leave stakeholders uncertain about whether projects can go forward without violating the ESA.
New amendments that passed on the House floor include:
Amendment #70 offered by Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO): Congress included citizen suit provisions in the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the ESA to ensure enforcement of critical public health and environmental protections, when agencies failed to act. However, this amendment disallows recovery of legal fees for settlements and would prevent many communities from being able to get legal representation to enforce these laws, leading to more polluted air and toxins in our drinking water. This amendment will also unnecessarily prolong litigation, adding burdens to agencies and courts.
Amendment #66 offered by Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA), Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) and Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR): This amendment would force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow pesticide-promoting, genetically engineered crops on national wildlife refuges where farming is permitted, preventing the agency from managing these public lands for healthy natural ecosystems. It would override agency policy prohibiting use of GMOs on refuges unless it is essential to meet wildlife conservation objectives, facilitating damaging commercial agriculture operations in sensitive wildlife habitat.
Amendment #49 offered by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO): This amendment would devastate conservation and recovery efforts for listed species any time the Fish and Wildlife Service fails to meet its obligation to complete a 5-year review of the species’ status as required by the ESA. The agencies are often prevented from completing these reviews on time due to lack of funding or competing priorities. As of early 2018, nearly 1,000 listed species lacked up-to-date five-year reviews. This amendment would leave species without current reviews in a state of limbo, because they would retain their ESA status, but all federal funding for recovery efforts, law enforcement efforts, and consultations would be blocked.
Amendment #48 offered by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO): This amendment would block federal funding for the threatened Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse under the ESA, thwarting recovery efforts for this western species, which continues to experience habitat loss and face other threats throughout its range. It would eliminate crucial recovery programs for the mouse that require federal funding, such as Habitat Conservation Plans, and leave stakeholders uncertain about whether projects can go forward without violating the ESA.
Amendment #62 offered by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM): This amendment would prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the imperiled lesser prairie-chicken under the ESA. FWS is currently reviewing the status of the lesser prairie-chicken, which occupies less than 15 percent of its former range and continues to face numerous threats. According to a November 2017 conservation assessment by the North American Grouse Partnership, lesser prairie-chicken populations are now at or near historic lows with an estimated 97 percent decline in populations and a 92 percent decline in range-wide occupancy.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.