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.