Threats to Endangered Species Act gain speed in Congress

By on October 23, 2017 with 24 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

There are radical maneuvers among some Republicans in the House to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to cherry-pick species from the list to enable trophy hunting or wildlife trafficking targeting the rarest of species. If any or all of these anti-wildlife provisions were to be adopted, animal species already at great risk will see the dangers to them compounded in life-threatening ways. Republicans and Democrats not aligned with these maneuverings need to stand against these efforts to enable the exploitation of rare species and defend one of the nation’s most popular and important animal protection laws.

I’ve written multiple times about a raft of efforts to eliminate federal protections for gray wolves in the Great Lakes region. A U.S. District Court said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to remove federal protections was illegal, and a unanimous panel of judges on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed that ruling. Some lawmakers want to circumvent the federal courts and enable an illegal plan to proceed. If they succeed, what would stop lawmakers from a region from plucking other species off the list to serve parochial interests? The listing and delisting process is to be conducted by professionals at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and it’s subject to judicial review. The process is not supposed to be micromanaged by Congress.

One of the most outrageous efforts comes from U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who has introduced a bill, H.R. 2603, the misnamed Saving America’s Endangered Species Act, that would eliminate protections for foreign species held as captives in the United States. His bill would also enable the free flow of parts of some endangered species to be sold or carried into the United States. It would have immediate and devastating consequences for chimpanzees, elephants, and African lions in the United States, and it would put these species at risk in their native lands as well.

Though we made great progress with the National Institutes of Health in phasing out the use of chimpanzees in invasive experiments, the legal protection for the chimpanzees is derived from the listing of the species as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The HSUS led the effort to petition the agency to class all chimps as endangered, including the captive animals held in the United States. In 2015, the Service categorized all chimpanzees as protected. If the Gohmert bill is enacted, federal protections for chimps for invasive experiments would be ended overnight. Unfortunately, laboratories that once experimented on chimps are still holding on to hundreds of them, and some labs might resume experiments if they had the legal authority to do so.

For other species coveted by trophy hunting interests, the legal strictures of the Endangered Species Act are critical to protecting captive animals in the United States. African elephants, lions, leopards, and a number of other species could be legally hunted in the United States, on canned hunting operations, if lawmakers passed the Gohmert legislation. There are more than 1,000 captive hunting facilities that offer up exotic species already in the United States; these businesses could just add a few species to the list of huntable targets, and many of them could be obtained through exotic animal dealers.

The ESA also restricts the trade to the United States in endangered animal parts. Last year, The HSUS and HSI succeed in getting the African lion listed as threatened or endangered across its range in Africa. Prior to that, American trophy hunters killed and imported the heads and hides of about 700 lions a year, most of them killed in captive hunts in South Africa. With the federal listing of lions as threatened or endangered, those imports have stopped, and American trophy hunters now can’t bring the heads back, so most of them won’t kill them in the first place. If Gohmert’s bill passes, American trophy hunters will rush over to range nations with lions and renew their killing in earnest.

Gohmert’s bill has passed the House Natural Resources Committee, but Speaker Paul Ryan would be well advised not to bring up this terrible bill.

Some lawmakers are taking a different tack to weaken the ESA. Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., recently introduced the also-misnamed Native Species Protection Act, S. 1863. Contrary to its title, this bill would strip ESA protection from species found entirely within the borders of a single state. Examples of such species include the polar bear, the Puerto Rican parrot, and the Sonoran pronghorn. This legislation has implications for trafficking too, since rare and declining species can have economic value in illegal trade markets, and can generate harmful interstate commerce beyond a range state’s borders. The good news is, when Sen. Lee offered an amendment to this effect in last week’s budget resolution vote, the Senate rejected it by a vote of 51 to 49, with Tennessee Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander and Maine Sen. Susan Collins joining all Democrats in opposing it.

Endangered and threatened species, whether native to the United States or not, desperately need all the protections they can get. Removing ESA protections for these imperiled animals is a sop to American and foreign trophy hunters, wildlife traffickers, pet traders, and even laboratory researchers. Our hard-earned gains for animals, achieved through years of campaigning, would be unraveled overnight for species that deserve better.

Animal Research and Testing, Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Patricia A Bewley says:

    why are these people so cruel?

  2. Brian says:

    Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert has always been involved in the politics of divisiveness and spite. He has sunk to the level of detestable, execrable, odious. It is galling to think that someone like Gohmert could be instrumental in the pain, fear, suffering and death of any animal. Shame, shame, shame on Gohmert, Sens. Lee, Hatch, and Rand. It is shameful and unethical and immoral for them to be party to any legislation which sacrifices the lives of endangered animals to satisfy the bloodlust of the so-called trophy hunters and the bottom-feeders at canned hunt. They are, taken together, contemptible.

  3. Suzanne Mitchell says:

    Stop the abuse and killing of animals.

  4. ROBYN says:


  5. E. August Allen says:

    What I find as one of the most outrageous attacks on the ESA and endangered species is S. 935 – Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act
    Sponsored by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cosponsored by Dean Heller (R-NV).

    This bill makes the following changes to the ESA:

    • Immediately removes every species from the list of threatened and endangered species, including wolves.

    • Requires congressional approval through a joint resolution before any species can be relisted as threatened or endangered.

    • Automatically delists all protected species every five years, then requires the Secretary of Interior to consult with the Governor before submitting a list of species to Congress, which would have to be approved through a joint resolution for species to re-gain protections.

    • Eliminates the citizen petition process to add species to the endangered species list.

    • Undermines the ESA’s science-based nature by redefining “best scientific and commercial data” to include any scientific evidence made available by any State agency (regardless of the quality of the data).

    This bill would devastate endangered species conservation and almost certainly lead to more extinctions.

    • Denine Mishoe says:

      Agreed! I’m so sick n tired of Congress sticking it to Americans and only following the requests of their biggest ‘campaign donors’ (i.e. special interest groups). Not giving a damn what the majority of Americans think or want. It’s time to change that!!

      If you’re also sick of Congress’s behavior, join us at TERM LIMITS FOR US CONGRESS on Facebook. Congress members become more corrupt and more indebted to those said special interest groups for every additional year they’re in office. Why should they be in office for an undefined length of time? They voted in the 1950s that the President could only serve 2 terms maximum (8 years) to limit any growing power…. yet, they think we don’t see just exactly what kinds of criminals they’ve become. Their approval rates are NEVER more than 15% – that’s pathetic! However, our founding brilliant fathers left us a loophole in the constitution and there is NOTHING Congress can do to stop up.


      • Teresa Travis says:

        WE must not let them get away with this horrifying absurd
        destructive bill. and all the nefarious schemes they desire.
        How can they be stopped?

        I doubt Californian Senate and Representatives will co-operate.
        I hope they won’t. Diane F ,Juan Vargas and Gov. Brown will protest. They will not allow canned hunts.. We must write to them and plead for the animals to be saved. No elephant must beg on the street for food and do stupid tricks. These noble creatures are demeaned and insulted by humans…WOLF is an Icon and when the Wolf sits in the Council with men – the land is rich with game. There is food for the people The animals are life for us all. They are beautiful and wise, when we see them we are inspired to be more human – more kind and brave ourselves.
        A Spirit Connection A sacred trust to help them To .survive and to let them live free! They are citizens of our planet – more than any human.

    • Anna S. says:

      E. August Allen, thank you for adding this important information!

  6. Annoula Wylderich says:

    I’m so grateful that my congresswoman, Dina Titus, is not among those legislators who sacrifice morality for profit and other motives. These folks surely have future generations in their families whom they’d want to have the opportunity to appreciate beautiful species outside of just a book. I would hope they consider the kind of world they are leaving behind for their descendants. This is just plain sad.

  7. Jill Fraser says:

    Trophy hunting and wildlife trafficking must be stopped.

  8. Patricia Rizzo says:

    What have we become. Cruel and shirt sighted. The people making these decisions are selling the future of our planet

  9. Jack Gajda says:

    Say no to Trophy Hunting and Protect Endangered Species here in the US of A and all around the world…

  10. Camille MacLean says:

    Trophy Hunting is evil and disgusting. It must be stopped forever. Let these beautiful animals live in peace. It’s their world as much as ours.

  11. Abbie says:

    This is beyond disgusting. It’s happening behind people’s backs, and it’s devastating consequences will have permanent loss.

  12. Rebecca Lane-Nohl says:

    What right do humans have to make laws and allow trophy hunting…..permanent BAN for this so called evil sport!

  13. Magnus Robertson says:

    Stopping animals abuse is noble. Continuing with animal abuse is so obviously stupid. Exotic animals are fast dissapearing and the killing, the senseless cruelty, has to be stopped before we loose them all to extinction!

  14. Rusty Kimbrell says:

    Without hunters many species would already be extinct.

    It’s hunters $ that have provided protection from poaching in Africa.

    It’s hunters $ that make it profitable to raise those species here in Texas.

    I have more addax, pere david, scimitar oryx, and arabian oryx on my ranch than exist in their native lands.

    Their market value is why I raise them.

    I have MUCH more invested in them and care MUCH more for them than HSUS ever will.

    You sentence entire species to death when you destroy their value. Because non consumptive use doesn’t pay anyone’s bills.

  15. Sheryl Schroeder says:

    We have to FIGHT THIS every step of the way! The Dept of the Interior is taking comments now. PLEASE, everyone reading this send your comments in. We have to fight them! Killing is NOT conservation, these people are sick. Here is the contact info:

    Mail or hand-carry nominations to Joshua Winchell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuge System, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803; or Email nominations to:

  16. S. Schroeder says:

    BETTER THAN THAT, CALL JOSHUA WINCHELL! I spoke with him this morning. Register your opposition to this pro-hunting pro-killing plan!
    Joshua Winchell 703-358-2639

  17. teresa travis says:

    The plan to SELL the right to kill endangered species idea probably comes from Trump’s son. He’s into this “sport” . Trump and his family (most of them) are all whores for money..They want to see how much damage they
    can do before the American People rise up and drive them out…I HOPE As soon as possible. Trumps have no ethics, no morals, & are thieves, liars..
    All the Republican Congressmen and Trumpe’s cabinent should be brought to justice – FIRED, LAID-OFF without retirement or health plan. PUBLIC TRAITORS to American Democracy. Their names and faces known as HEARTLESS MONEY GRUBBING WHORES. Or as EVIL SPACE ALIENS because -they have no feelings for the Planet Earth – trying to destroy America…Disgraced by greed!.
    They sold their souls (if they ever had any).
    I’m a Theosophist, no Christian bigot but theTrumps are anti-Christ. For THEM it’s ONLY MONEY maybe POWER. without responsibility. Each of them – Republican Congressmen accountable – as followers of the anti-Christ.
    .Let each Congressman be SHAMED in front of the general population who are 85% behind HUMANE TREATMENT of ANIMALS .Let their wives and children know- how they sold their souls. Maybe Poverty worse than Prison. Let them work at Jack in the Box – minimum wage.Or HOMELESS. Or deported like a Mexican .
    What do YOU think? Let us publish their faces and names and addresses over the Internet. They need to revealed and everything they do!…

  18. teresa travis says:

    TERM LIMITS FOR US CONGRESS is one good idea Yes. I follow.

  19. teresa travis says:

    Thanks for Winchell’s address and phone no. Don’t worry I’ll be polite.
    Because I don’t know where he stands on this issue.
    But my legislators Congressmen in California are well-know for being animal
    rights people…They are not apart of this odious plan to kill endangered animals. Bless them. Thank Goodness!

  20. The Real Truth says:

    This removal of non-natives has nothing to do with Lions, Tigers and Bears. The purpose is to prevent government from taking away our pet parrots. State Laws in Maine and Pennsylvania refer to the ESA to invade peoples homes and take away their pets that are on the ESA. These pets include common pet birds here in America such as the Umbrella Cockatoo, Yellow-Crested Cockatoo (Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo), Military Macaw, Blue-Throated Macaw, Red Shouldered Macaw, Mexican Red-Head Amazon and soon to include the Scarlet Macaw and Hyacinth Macaw. World Parrot Trust will soon be petitioning to include the African Grey Parrot to the ESA. This has caused thousands of people to have to either move out of their home state or sell their pets. This is wrong and unethical. You can make an individual law for each individual species that you want to protect but making common American pets illegal, is wrong. Removing non-native species off the ESA will right the wrongs. Tell your congressman you support this act and that new legislation is needed in place of the ESA that doesn’t include common American pets.

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