"Congress, We Have A Problem"

Earth Day 1996

April 1, 1996

"Congress, We Have A Problem": Extinction is Forever

Dismantling federal safeguards for imperiled animals and plants has been a priority of the 104th Congress. In 1995, Congress clamped a moratorium on any new listings of threatened or endangered species, such as the Florida Black Bear and Atlantic Salmon, under the Endangered Species Act, denying federal protection to more than 400 species of animals and plants. In addition, Congress curtailed funding for crucial research on imperiled wildlife, and virtually eliminated the National Biological Survey, a fledgling and long-overdue effort to inventory the nation's flora and fauna. In March, 1996, the Senate extended the species protection moratorium until the end of the fiscal year.

In the House of Representatives, 129 members have cosponsored a bill, introduced by Representatives Don Young of Alaska and Richard Pombo of California, that would dismantle most protections under the Endangered Species Act--the intensive care ward of wildlife conservation. Representative Young is the chairman of the House Resources committee which has jurisdiction over the Endangered Species Act, and Representative Pombo is a co-chair of the House Republican Task Force on the Environment.

How it Hurts America

  • Under the endangered species moratorium, 420 imperiled species nationwide have been denied protection under the Endangered Species Act. This includes 238 species that have been officially proposed for listing, and 182 species that are candidates for the endangered or threatened species list.
  • Among the imperiled species that have been denied protection under the moratorium are the Florida black bear, found in Florida and Georgia; the swift fox, found in some mid-western and western states; the Peninsular Ranges population of bighorn sheep in California; the U.S. population of jaguars, found in California, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Texas; and the northern population of Bog Turtles, found in some New England and mid-Atlantic states.
  • Under the Young-Pombo bill, nearly 1,000 endangered and threatened species currently protected by the Act and found in the U.S. would lose virtually all federal protections. Among these species are the grizzly bear, the eastern cougar, the Louisiana black bear, the black-footed ferret, two species of jaguarundi, the manatee, the southern sea otter, the Florida panther, the whooping crane, the American peregrine falcon, the California condor, 7 species of sea turtles, 4 runs of salmon and 6 species of trout.