Ron Cogswell

Is Congress making the grade when it comes to conservation?

Time for Congress to put down its pencil.

Time is up and the grades are in. Just how well did your Congressperson stack up when it comes to wildlife issues? We’ve got the answers in our 2016 Congressional Report Card. See who takes home the gold star and who deserves a call home from the teacher.

Defenders’ government relations team produced the 2016 Congressional Report Card, that also comes in a handy pocket guide, so you can be informed about how your representatives on Capitol Hill are measuring up and whether they are standing up for wildlife and their habitats.

This report card details 13 votes brought forth in the Senate and 20 votes brought forth in the House of Representatives in the 114th Congress that had serious implications for wildlife conservation, management and habitat.

One Friday afternoon in early March, a dozen Defenders fanned out across Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to personally deliver grades to each congressional office.  From offices with beautiful photographs of wildlife and landscapes to offices with taxidermy foxes and wolf-skin rugs, the Defenders team distributed Report Cards to all 535 House and Senate offices.  Distributing the Report Cards to the offices ensures that the Members of Congress are aware that they’re held accountable for their wildlife and conservation-focused votes.

A key part of our work at Defenders is also keeping you informed about the work that lawmakers are doing on your behalf here in Washington, DC. We know that being able to hold elected officials accountable is an essential mechanism when it comes to making real changes for the wildlife and wild lands we cherish.  This report is prepared as a tool to help you hold your representatives in Congress accountable for their voting record on critical issues relating to the health and welfare of wildlife and their habitats.

Among the key conservation issues taken up by the 114th Congress in 2016 was legislation dealing with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), public lands management, conservation funding, and climate change mitigation.

Of note, were the persistent and continued attacks against the ESA occurring throughout the 114th Congress.  The ESA was the target of more than 130 legislative attacks during the 114th Congress, a trend we are already seeing continue into the first session of the 115th Congress.

The Report Card details some key issues and votes from the House and Senate in which Defenders has been engaged.

The Senate: A Series of Attacks

All of the Senate votes covered in this report card would negatively impact wildlife and conservation efforts.  Thankfully, however, Defenders was ultimately able to help stop all of them from becoming law.  These included ones to:

Undermine citizen enforcement of the Endangered Species Act (not passed-win)

Remove necessary Endangered Species Act protections for the threatened Lesser Prairie-Chicken (not passed-win)

Mandate the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline (passed in both Senate and House; vetoed by President Obama)

Prioritize economic considerations over conservation science in Endangered Species Act determinations (passed)

Starve environmental funding (passed)

Prevent action on climate change (passed)

Undermine the Land and Water Conservation Fund (not passed-win)


The House of Representatives: A United Af-Front to Conservation 

Overall, wildlife faced an even tougher time in the House during the 114th Congress.   And the House attacks on wildlife are only projected to continue to mount in the 115th Congress. Some key votes in the House included:

Starving environmental funding (passed)

Removing necessary Endangered Species Act protections for two imperiled species (passed)

Restoring protections for the endangered Gray Wolf, threatened Northern Long-Eared Bat and Imperiled Sage Grouse (not passed)

Using the California drought as an excuse for undermining endangered species protections (passed)

Preventing action on climate change (passed)

Barring conservation measures for iconic Alaskan wildlife (passed)

Jeopardizing wildlife and public lands conservation (passed)

Blocking Endangered Species Act protections for hundreds of threatened and endangered species (passed)

Delisting the Gray Wolf throughout the continental United States (passed)


A Closer Look at Conservation Voting in the Senate and the House of Representatives [Infographic]


Our work never stops and neither does yours

We take pride in being your voice and the voice of wildlife on Capitol Hill.  We remain vigilant of all the legislation that impacts the wildlife and wild places we’ve made a shared committed to protect and defend. But our work counts on you to take the next step.  So, it’s time to use this report card to call home and hold your representatives accountable for how they are measuring up when it comes to wildlife issues and conservation voting.

To check and see whether your representatives are making the grade, simply enter your zip code and you’ll be able to see their voting record on these and other critical issues that were voted on in the 114th Congress. Most importantly, let them hear from you! Write or call and let them know in your own words, as their constituent, that these issues are important to you.  Even if they have an outstanding record, take time to send them your thanks and to let them know you’re paying attention.

Together we will make a difference for wildlife, and that starts with holding our nation’s decision makers accountable.


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2 Responses to “Is Congress making the grade when it comes to conservation?”

  1. Bruce A Rocheleau

    Excellent source. I will post URL at my site. Note: conservation organizations need to form coalition to take action that shows anti-conservation votes and measures have consequences. For example, Alaskan tourist boycott in 1990s was effective in reversing aerial killing of wolves. Similar threat and action needed now until Alaskan officials reverse their intention to open national wildlife refuges to killing of denning bears and wolves.

  2. Laura Ahearn

    There are some glitches. For example, when I search for Senator Heller it says his scores are “N/A” or that he didn’t vote, but if I sift through each bill I see his awful anti-conservation votes tallied. At some point I did reach a link to his name that summarized his lifetime and 2016 votes. Maybe people may not press on that far.

    I will do all I can to unseat Heller and Rep Amodei, for their anti-Earth and anti-Wildlife actions reflected here and on the LCV scorecard.

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