Protect Endangered Species

By Marianne Holland

Collectively, we do the hard work of sustainability and climate action not just for ourselves, our families, or our communities. The work we do has advocacy at its heart. So often we find ourselves standing up for those who, for whatever reason, are unable to speak up for themselves, and that includes America’s endangered wildlife species.

These animals and plantshave been some of the first to experience the catastrophic realities of climate change. Already hovering dangerously close to extinction, the troubles faced by endangered species grow exponentially with the loss of habitat resulting from changing climate. The work of their recovery is already an uphill battle, so recent attempts in Congress to undermine the very laws that protect these species, could not be more misguided.

This month, the U.S. Senate is expected to act on two of the most egregious attempts to weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA), despite its status as America’s most successful conservation law, boasting a 99% success rate protecting species from extinction.

The first is S. 1514, a measure due for a vote in the Senate this month. It has two major negative impacts: it contradicts the ESA’s requirement that listing decisions be made using only the best available science, instead allowing Congress to eliminate protection for species (in this case gray wolves in the Midwest states). It also undermines judicial review of delisting decisions, flying in the face of another longtime virtue of the ESA, citizen rights to petition the government to protect endangered species.

The second is much broader in scope: A proposed reauthorization bill for the ESA which is expected to be introduced this month and will be a virtual dumping ground for dozens of “poison pill” riders. Among the worst: direct action by Congress to eliminate protection for specific endangered plants or animals without any scientific review, and attempts to weaken habitat protections established using the best available science. Still another would put the burden of species protection on the states. Not a single U.S. state offers state-level species protection that comes close to matching the effectiveness of the ESA. Indiana ranks in the bottom third of those states in its ability to assume sole responsibility for species protection.

We must act, telling our representatives in Congress (particularly those in the Senate where key action is now being considered), that they cannot support any measures to weaken the ESA. Senators Joe Donnelly and Todd Young need to hear from Hoosiers like us to understand that we see the protection of endangered species as an important government function. They must understand that Hoosiers treasure spotting a bald eagle or peregrine falcon, two iconic species saved thanks to the Endangered Species Act. We need Congress to get the message that instead of weakening protections for endangered species and their habitat, they should instead fully fund it, to ensure more species earn the designated critical habitat protections they so urgently need.

Please consider helping in this effort. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, encouraging others to contact Congress too. Reach out to the Hoosier Environmental Council, to join citizen meetings with our U.S. Senators, telling our leaders, in person, why endangered species protections need to be strengthened. As HEC’s Wilderness Protection Campaign Coordinator, I’m eager to help make your activism efforts successful. Take a moment today to reach me at (317) 702-4847 or by email at mholland@hecweb.org. Together, let’s protect our endangered species and our climate!

Earth Charter