House of Representatives Guts Endangered Species Act

On September 29, 2005 the U.S. House of Representatives Voted to Gut the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Thank you to everyone that tried to stop them. Now the fate of the ESA rests in the hands of the Senate. Call your Senator today and ask them to support a strong ESA.

September 27, 2005 -

Endangered species would no longer be protected from the harmful effects of pesticides under a last minute amendment by Representative Walden (R-OR) to Representative Pombo’s (R-CA) anti-Endangered Species Act bill (H.R. 3824). This especially damaging waiver of protections from pesticides makes a bad bill even worse.

The sweeping amendment exempts all pesticide decisions from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance and eliminates the requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consult with federal wildlife agencies on approval of pesticides for five years. It is this consultation and evaluation process that has helped protect endangered species, such as Pacific Northwest salmon, from pesticides that are extremely toxic to this valuable species. Under the proposed legislation, a pesticide known to kill endangered species could be approved during that time without any regard for the protections of ESA. The Bush Administration has tried to achieve similar results by rewriting federal regulations.

The amendment also exempts for five years all pesticide users from responsibility if the use of a pesticide harms a threatened or endangered species. Federal and state agencies as well as individuals and corporations will no longer be held responsible for the death of endangered or threatened wildlife due to use or misuse of pesticides.

This amendment would take away the ability under the ESA to stop pesticide use even when necessary to prevent extinction. Without existing checks and balances on pesticide use, the effect on wildlife could be devastating, and humans could be hurt too as toxic pesticides are applied by farm laborers, and make their way into our nation’s streams, rivers, and food supply.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) alone does not adequately protect endangered species. EPA interprets FIFRA to require balancing the profits from using a pesticide against the dollar value of harm caused by that pesticide, without adequately considering alternative products and techniques. The Endangered Species Act, on the other hand, recognizes what almost all Americans believe: that no dollar amount can be placed on the extinction of our nation’s wildlife.

Beyond the Walden amendment, the Rep. Pombo's original version of H.R. 3824, ironically titled the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005, already had environmentalists up in arms. "If Rep. Pombo's legislation were part of the original ESA, the recovery of the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and peregrine falcon would have been extremely difficult if not impossible," said Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife. "The bill contains provisions that would severely cripple the federal effort to recover endangered plants and animals. It runs counter to the very intent of ESA and flies in the face of Rep. Pombo's earlier professed desire to improve wildlife conservation." For more information on Representative Pombo’s anti-ESA bill, see Defenders of Wildlife's full analysis.

Tell your Member of Congress to vote against H.R. 3824. Please consider taking the time to customize Defenders of Wildlife's action alert to your Member of Congress to include your concerns on Rep. Walden's amendment that leaves endangered species vulnerable to toxic pesticides.