On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings on legislation to "modernize" the Endangered Species Act, part of a push by Republicans to roll back environmental regulations and protections. The Republicans on the committee, led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and three of the five witnesses at the hearing argued that the 1973 law to keep animal species from extinction impedes oil drilling, mining, and farming, and infringes on the rights of states and private landowners. The proposed legislation would make it harder to list animals on the endangered species list and limit legal action under the 1973 law, among other changes.
Barrassso painted the bill as a way to cut "red tape," while Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the Endangered Species Act makes it too hard to take animals off the list, arguing that only 50 of the 1,600 species listed as endangered or threatened have been removed. Jamie Rappaport Clark, head of the conservation nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, testified that the Obama administration removed 29 species from the endangered list in eight years, in a sign that the law is working. "For more than 40 years, the ESA has been successful, bringing the bald eagle, the American alligator, the Stellar sea lion, the peregrine falcon, and numerous other species back from the brink of extinction," she said. "Based on data from the (Fish and Wildlife Service), the ESA has saved 99 percent of listed species from extinction."
There's a parallel push to scale back the Endangered Species Act in the House — House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wants to repeal it entirely, arguing that "it has never been used for the rehabilitation of species" but instead has "been used to control the land." On Wednesday night's Full Frontal, Samantha Bee was puzzled at the constituency for killing the Endangered Species Act. "The vast majority of Americans support wildlife protection," she said, citing a Defenders of Wildlife poll showing 84 percent support for the law (an American Farm Bureau Federation poll was more nuanced.) "'Animals are awesome' is the only safe topic of conversation most American families have left. Left-right, old-young, black-white, Americans agree: Four legs, good."
President Trump, who has already delayed adding an endangered bumblebee to the endangered species list, is expected to sign any legislation that comes to his desk.