Senate Bill Aims to Strip Protections From 1,098 Endangered Species Including Utah Prairie Dog, Florida Panther
Republican U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah introduced legislation this week that would strip federal Endangered Species Act protections for animals and plants found in only one state. Known as intrastate species, such imperiled animals and plants make up the majority of the 1,655 species protected under the act.
The legislation is backed by extreme anti-wildlife organizations that oppose the protection of the Utah prairie dog, an animal only found in Utah. In addition to ending protections for the prairie dog, the legislation would terminate protections for all 1,098 intrastate species, including 497 species in Hawaii, 234 species in California, 86 species in Florida and 20 species in Utah.
"Utah's senators hate their prairie dogs so much they're willing to destroy most of America's endangered wildlife to wipe out this little animal," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "From the Florida panther to virtually all imperiled species in Hawaii, every one of these intrastate species would be condemned to extinction. Americans do not support this ludicrous proposal."
S. 1863, the deceptively named "Native Species Protection Act," seeks to overturn a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision from earlier this year that affirmed the federal government's authority to protect the Utah prairie dog.
In that case, Judge Holmes—a Republican appointee writing for the three-judge panel—concluded that eliminating protections for intrastate species would "leave a gaping hole" and "undercut the conservation purposes" of the Endangered Species Act. The 10th Circuit decision marked the fifth time an appeals court has rejected arguments that extreme private property-rights advocates have been bringing for years.
"Republicans continue to demonstrate that their calls to reform the Endangered Species Act are completely hollow," said Hartl. "Instead of proposing ideas that help recover our most vulnerable wildlife, they're eager to let America's iconic animals go extinct."
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said in December that he would like to repeal the Endangered Species Act in its entirety. Since January congressional Republicans have launched 47 legislative attacks against the Endangered Species Act or specific endangered species. Since the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 2011, more than 268 attacks have been instigated.
These attacks continue despite the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans support the Endangered Species Act and want it either strengthened or left unchanged by Congress, according to a 2015 poll.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
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Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria was likely responsible for more than 300 elephant deaths in Botswana this year, the country's wildlife department announced on Monday.
How Did Cyanobacteria Poison the Elephants?<p>Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Some cyanobacteria produce neurotoxins.</p><p>The cyanobacteria "was growing in pans" or watering holes, the principal veterinary officer of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Mmadi Reuben, told reporters.</p><p>Reuben said the deaths had "stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of pans."</p><p>"However we have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only? We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating," added Reuben.</p><p>Similar elephant deaths have also been recorded in neighboring Zimbabwe.</p>
Climate Change to Blame?<p>Not all cyanobacteria are toxic but scientists say varieties dangerous to humans and animals are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.</p><p>Southern Africa's temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.</p>
Elephant Paradise?<p>Africa's overall elephant population is declining due to poaching. But Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent's elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000.</p><p>Botswana's government said it was continuing studies into the occurrence of the deadly bacteria. In the winter, elephants hydrate themselves mainly by eating roots and bark, especially of the baobab tree.</p>
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