11:17 PM

For Immediate Release

House Interior Bill Hammers Imperiled Wildlife with Riders, Cuts

The House Appropriations Committee released a Fiscal Year 2019 Interior and Environment spending bill last night that is slated for markup in subcommittee at 5:30 p.m. this evening. The legislation cuts funding for a key Endangered Species Act program and contains several damaging anti-wildlife provisions that cast aside the importance of science in decision making, block citizen access to the courts and jeopardize years of collaborative wildlife conservation planning.

Statement from Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark:

“The Appropriations Committee pulled out their sharpest knives to make cuts to vital wildlife and wild lands protections in yet another attack on the Endangered Species Act.

“The rider blocking protections for greater sage-grouse – at this point, a perennial favorite of anti-wildlife members of Congress – represents a one-two punch for this species, as Secretary Zinke is already laser focused on gutting collaboratively developed, comprehensive land management plans aimed at conserving the imperiled bird and many other species that depend on that special habitat.

“The bill also puts endangered salmon runs at incredible risk and wages war on wolves in the lower 48 states. It also threatens sensitive fish and wildlife, healthy watersheds and the local communities and economies that depend on these resources.

“These provisions are the antithesis of responsible stewardship of our lands, waters and wildlife, and have no place in an Interior appropriations bill that truly aims to preserve our natural heritage.”


Background on Anti-Wildlife Provisions

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Act Listing Budget

The bill follows President Trump’s request and cuts the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listing budget by an unacceptable 42 percent. Without adequate funding for listing, the agency will not be able to maintain work on its seven-year listing workplan, which allows the agency to prioritize over 300 species for listing decisions. Species due for decisions in FY 2019 include the tufted puffin, Penasco least chipmunk and monarch butterfly.


Section 115 would prohibit the FWS from developing a rule to list the imperiled greater sage-grouse or Columbia Basin sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act for at least another year. In September 2015, FWS determined that the greater sage-grouse was not warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act, and withdrew the species from the candidate species list. FWS cited unprecedented, landscape-scale cooperation on conservation efforts as reducing threats to sage grouse. Now, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has initiated a process that will reduce protections for the species under the National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy. Sage-grouse populations are continuing to decline. Given the current administration’s hostile intentions for the Planning Strategy, the ability to protect sage-grouse under the ESA is more crucial than ever. This rider has been included in omnibus appropriations bills from FY 2015 – FY 2018. It is noteworthy that an amendment blocking protections for the sage-grouse was just included in the National Defense Authorization bill under the guise of protecting military readiness, demonstrating that opponents of sage-grouse conservation are willing to use any vehicle to advance their anti-ESA agenda.

Wyoming and Great Lakes wolves

Section 116 would override a unanimous D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision issued on August 1, 2017, and remove existing federal protections for wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. It would also codify a recent D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that stripped ESA protections for wolves in Wyoming. Finally, the rider would preclude judicial review of these wolf delistings, thus furthering a damaging trend of Congress undermining the ability of Americans to seek out justice and defend our civil rights, public health, and environment.

Lower 48 wolves

Section 117 directs the administration to promulgate a rule to delist the endangered gray wolf throughout the continental United States, except for the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf subspecies. The gray wolf is currently listed as endangered in most of the lower-48 states. While the return of gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes has been an incredible success story, this iconic American species still only occupies a small portion of its former range and wolves have only just started to re-enter areas like northern California, where there are large swaths of suitable habitat. This rider would reverse the incredible progress that the ESA has achieved for this iconic American species over the past few decades and could once again put the gray wolf at risk of extinction. This rider also precludes judicial review of this delisting.

California Water and Salmon

Section 437 would eliminate judicial review of the ecologically-destructive California WaterFix project, endangering salmon runs and other native fish in the San Francisco Bay-Delta. WaterFix is a proposal to build two massive tunnels—each 40 feet high and 35 miles long—under the sensitive Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to send water from Northern California to Southern California. The oversized project could devastate Chinook salmon and other native fish by removing too much fresh water from the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem. Section 437 precludes judicial review of the massive infrastructure project under both state and federal law, eliminating critical safeguards for ensuring the project is constructed and operated responsibly. The provision could affect numerous cases already filed in state and federal court.


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.