ESA: The Forgotten Love Story

Why the Endangered Species Act (ESA) needs our love today!

A love story often has someone in distress and a hero. This Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing a love story that is near and dear to our hearts at Defenders of Wildlife.

When it comes to protecting wildlife (the ones in distress) our hero (the ESA) has always been there to rescue and protect those in need. It is a law of last resort, necessary when all else has failed to protect an endangered or threatened species. The hero wins in this love story when beloved and iconic American wildlife such as the bald eagle, the Florida manatee, and the California condor are brought back from the brink of extinction.

But what happens when our hero becomes the one in distress? This love story is taking a sudden and potentially tragic turn this week as the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) holds the first hearing this Congress on the ESA. How will our hero survive?

Setting the Story: Hero to Zero

The ESA is the strongest and most important federal law protecting imperiled wildlife and plants. For more than 40 years, the ESA has helped prevent the extinction of our nation’s wildlife treasures. It also benefits people by maintaining healthy natural systems that provide us with clean air and water, food, medicines, and other products that we all need to live healthy lives.

Although we still hold the same conservation values that led to the creation of the ESA decades ago, unrelenting pressure from various industries and anti-federal government politicians continue to threaten this vital piece of environmental legislation, attempting to override or severely weaken the ESA or slash its funding to a point where it can no longer accomplish its goals.

As more species are threatened with extinction, it is more important than ever that this vital tool for wildlife conservation be kept strong. Remember, the ESA is our last and best tool for preventing extinctions and putting jeopardized species back on the road to successful recovery.

An Up‘Hill’ Battle

Our hero is up against powerful forces like corporate interests and their supporters in Congress.

Since 2015,  U.S. Senators and Representatives have introduced more than 130 bills and amendments in Congress to weaken the ESA. Some of those lawmakers now sit on the same committees that oversee the ESA. In fact, at least four members of the EPW Committee have in recent years supported anti-ESA legislation.

Coincidentally, the EPW committee’s first hearing of this new Congress is titled “Oversight: Modernization of the Endangered Species Act.”

How You Rescue the Hero of this Love Story

Historically, the real goal of those who say they want to ‘modernize’ and ‘update’ the ESA has in fact been to undermine it. The ESA has been the hero of so many wildlife recovery stories, but some lawmakers want to destroy the protections it provides. This would guarantee extinction for our most imperiled wildlife, with tragic consequences far beyond those special animals and plants we will lose.

We all need to work together to save the hero. The vision, goals and purposes of the ESA are the same as they were when it was enacted by Congress in 1973. Our hero’s work is more important today than ever, it’s work is far from done.

Tomorrow Starts the Fight

Tomorrow marks the beginning of what will surely be a long fight. And leading the charge is Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark, who has in-depth knowledge of the ESA as both a member of Defenders’ staff for 13 years and the former head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). During her tenure as USFWS director, Jamie fought for wildlife and their habitat, which led to successful recovery efforts of numerous species and their important habitat.

She has been invited to Capitol Hill tomorrow to testify on behalf of the ESA. Her experience and leadership make her the best choice for defending the ESA before this Senate committee.

This will be an uphill battle but together we can save the hero. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to be a hero for the environment and leave behind a legacy of protecting endangered species and the special places they call home.

Defenders of Wildlife is deeply concerned that vital conservation and wildlife laws and regulations are at risk, which is why we will remain diligent to defend wildlife and their habitat from both Congressional and administrative threats. Follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on the status of other developments important to wildlife conservation and our work.