If you care about wildlife, then by extension you should be interested in what happens on Capitol Hill and how that helps or harms wildlife in America. But no individual can possibly track all of the important legislation or sort through the maze of laws each session. Defenders of Wildlife has a government relations team dedicated to this task and each session they provide you with a handy pocket guide to help you sort through the legislation and which of your representatives are helping or harming wildlife.
Not long ago, we released our 2015 Conservation Report Card for the 1st session of the 114th Congress. This guide identifies how members of Congress have voted on key wildlife and habitat conservation issues. This includes continual attacks on the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the cornerstone of wildlife protections in the United States, as well as key votes on climate change legislation.
Since the start of the 114th U.S. Congress, the Endangered Species Act alone has been the target of more than 100 legislative attacks. We hardly ever hear about these attacks in the mainstream media, which suits the bills’ sponsors in Congress just fine. They know that a whopping 90 percent of American voters support the law.
Many of the attacks on our wildlife and wild places take the form of amendments or “riders” attached to must-pass legislation, like the authorization bill for the U.S. Department of Defense, or appropriations bills for the U.S. Department of the Interior and other federal agencies. Defenders’ Conservation Report Card can shed some light on these sneakier attacks, highlighting 11 Senate votes and 12 votes by the House of Representatives.
While the amount of anti-environmental legislation considered by the House of Representatives has increased steadily since 2011, the number of votes cast by the Senate on anti-conservation measures increased significantly in 2015 compared to recent years. Despite this worrisome anti-environmental trend, pro-conservation representatives (vigorously supported by the tireless efforts of Defenders, others in the conservation community, and citizens like you) were able to keep quite nearly all of this legislation from becoming law.
Some of the key votes in the Senate in 2015 attempted to:
- Undermine citizen enforcement of the Endangered Species Act
- Remove ESA protections for the lesser prairie-chicken
- Prevent action on climate change
- Mandate approval of the Keystone Pipeline
Some of the key votes in the House of Representatives in 2015 attempted to:
- Remove protections for the lesser prairie chicken and American burying beetle
- Remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves
- Prevent protections for the gray wolf, northern long-eared bat and sage-grouse
As the leading voice for wildlife on Capitol Hill, we remain committed to alerting you about legislation and other decisions that could put our wildlife and their habitats in danger. But we can’t overstate how important it is for you to act on this information. Check to see how your representatives are doing. Just enter your zip code, and you’ll be able to see how they’ve voted on recent issues. If their record shows a clear commitment to wildlife and the environment, thank them! And if it looks like their record isn’t so great, write to them or give them a call. Tell them in your own words, as one of their constituents, why it is important to you to see them stand up for these issues. After all – they work for you!