Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced two bills today to substantially weaken protections for endangered species. The “Endangered Species Act Settlement Reform Act” (S. 375) would make it harder for citizens to ensure species are considered for protection in a timely fashion. The bill would give local governments, Big Oil, Big Agriculture and other industries the right to veto settlement agreements requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make decisions about the protection of endangered species.
“Senator Cornyn’s bill would do nothing but make it harder for America’s imperiled wildlife to get the endangered species protections they so desperately need,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Cornyn’s bill would allow industry and local politicians to needlessly delay protection, almost certainly causing the extinction of more of our native plants and animals.”
Delays in species protection have been a persistent problem. On average species have waited 12 years to receive Endangered Species Act protection, and more than 40 species have gone extinct waiting for that protection. Studies show citizen lawsuits have targeted species that are highly imperiled and been effective at speeding protection for species.
“Cornyn’s bill is a solution looking for a problem,” said Greenwald. “What the agency needs is more funding to do its job, not bills that give the oil and gas industry special rights. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a workplan specifying when it will make decisions for hundreds of species in need of protection, and litigation to enforce deadlines is the lowest it’s been in decades.”
Cornyn’s other bill, the “21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act” (S. 376), would place additional burdens on the already beleaguered Fish and Wildlife Service by requiring that it publish all studies and other documents relied on for protection decisions online. Such documents are already available upon request, meaning the bill would merely require unnecessary busywork for the agency. Even worse, the bill may further endanger species by requiring publication of sensitive location information that could put species at risk of poaching.
“Like other Republicans in the pocket of the oil and gas industry, Senator Cornyn is totally out of step with the majority of Americans who support strong protections for endangered species,” said Greenwald. “Passage of these bills would be an absolute disaster for America’s imperiled wildlife.”