Ranking Member Grijalva Leads Letter With More Than 100 Democrats Opposing GOP Defense Bill’s Attacks on Endangered Species

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a member of the House-Senate conference reconciling the two chambers’ versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sent a letter with 118 of his House Democratic colleagues this morning urging House and Senate lawmakers to remove language in the House version of the NDAA that weakens the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The letter, signed by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) among others, underscores public support for species protections and the need for strong and continuous oversight of endangered species health.

The letter is available at http://bit.ly/2NW5R7C.

The House version of the NDAA prohibits the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from listing the greater sage-grouse or the lesser prairie chicken under the ESA for 10 years and permanently delists the American burying beetle, which is currently protected under the law. The language, which the lawmakers say should be removed from the final bill, would allow greater development and resource extraction on those species’ habitats, which benefits industry and harms at-risk species without increasing military readiness or improving national security.

“Decisions about how to protect species under the ESA should be based on science and made by the experts at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, not Congress,” the lawmakers write, arguing that a related measure in the House version that prevents members of the public from challenging delisting decisions in court “undermin[es] a core value of our democracy.”

The lawmakers also urge rejection of a provision that would require the Department of Defense to reapply for a MMPA permit to kill or damage marine mammals only once a decade, a significant change from the current five-year schedule. As the lawmakers point out, during its most recent environmental review with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Navy estimated that over the following five years it would kill more than 250 whales and other marine mammals, cause permanent injury to another 3,000, and disrupt foraging and other vital behaviors more than 30 million times.

Requiring such a review every five years, the lawmakers write, is crucial because NMFS and the Navy frequently work together to achieve the “least practicable adverse impact” on affected species, as required by law, based on the most up-to-date science.

The letter is addressed to Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chair of the House Armed Services Committee; Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Majority Leader; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Majority Leader; and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader.

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