Birds at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, © Bob Miller

Not-So-Easy Riders: House Bill is Chock-Full of Bad Wildlife Policy

The House of Representatives is out for its summer recess, but before it left, it passed a damaging bill through the House Appropriations Committee. The bill is supposed to be providing funding for natural resource and environment programs. But this bill is practically a mockery of its intended purpose: it includes more than more than two dozen damaging policy provisions, called “riders,” that could put our wildlife, land, air, and water at risk. Here’s a breakdown:

Sage-Grouse Endangerment RiderSage-grouse, © Stephen Ting/USFWS

This rider would block all four species and populations of sage-grouse in the West from being protected under the Endangered Species Act for at least a year. This stalling tactic could come at a cost. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has already proposed to list two grouse populations: the Gunnison sage-grouse and the bi-state sage-grouse. Populations for each of these grouse have declined to just 5,000 birds (a perilously low number for grouse species), and remaining birds occur on mere fragments of their historic range. Postponing listing for either of these birds could threaten their survival and delay their recovery. The same rider would also prevent FWS from even considering greater sage-grouse and the Columbia Basin sage-grouse for possible listing under the ESA for at least another year, even though both populations have already waited more than decade for a listing decision! Appropriations riders are only supposed to be in effect for one year. However, once riders like this one are included in one appropriations bill, they are often extended in subsequent years, which could delay protection indefinitely.

The Sage-Grouse Endangerment Rider could also stall current conservation efforts for these birds. Planning efforts are presently underway to balance land uses with sage-grouse conservation on tens of millions of acres in the West – but only because listing decisions were expected soon. These planning processes could unravel if sage-grouse listing decisions are delayed.

All of these grouse have lost huge swaths of habitat. Most sage-grouse range has been grazed, plowed, sprayed, burned, drilled, developed, driven over and mined, and remaining habitat has been fragmented and degraded by weeds, unnatural fire, conifer encroachment, utility corridors, roads and fences. These imperiled birds need help, and fast.

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, © USFWS

Anti-National Wildlife Refuge Rider

This insidious rider would completely block the National Wildlife Refuge System from expanding or creating new refuges without congressional approval – and we all know how productive Congress can be. Across the country, wildlife needs more protected habitat and wildlife enthusiasts are looking for more places to visit and enjoy. In these times, Congress should be facilitating the growth of the National Wildlife Refuge System, not undermining it.

Congress already holds the purse strings when it comes to getting more funding for managing refuges or adding new land to them, and the public already has a role in that process. The current system for refuge expansion is inclusive, transparent, responsive to the needs of wildlife and already involves considerable congressional oversight. This proposal would move the process to Washington, D.C, and introduce national politics into what has been a locally-led, science- and community-based process for more than 100 years. At a time when 6,000 acres of open space, including wildlife habitat, is lost each day, we need the flexibility to administratively create wildlife refuges when necessary.

Other Harmful Riders

Here is just a sampling of what the other anti-environmental riders in the bill could do:

  • Cut off funding for Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, a Fish and Wildlife Service initiative to address large-scale complex threats to natural resources such as climate change, drought and invasive species across multiple jurisdictions (such as state, local and tribal governments) at the landscape level.
  • Make lead bullets and lead fishing tackle exempt from regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act, even though spent ammunition is one of the largest sources of lead entering the environment, poisoning millions of birds and thousands of mammals each year.
  • Keep new rules from being made to restrict the commercial trade of ivory in the U.S., even though tens of thousands of African elephants have been slaughtered for their ivory over the past five years by poachers and criminal networks.
  • Prevent the government from creating carbon emission standards for new and existing power plants, a crucial initiative under the Clean Air Act needed to address climate change.
  • Limit the power federal land managers have to close public lands like refuges or parks to fishing, hunting and recreational shooting, even though these closures are made in the interest of public safety and conservation.

If this bill were enacted as written, it would be devastating for our nation’s wildlife and the environment. Fortunately, a bill being developed in the Senate does not contain these damaging riders. Later this year, Congress will have to finalize all the funding bills, and Defenders will be working to ensure that the destructive House provisions are removed from any final bill. Stay tuned in the months ahead: we’ll need your help in contacting your representatives and senators and requesting that they oppose these destructive riders.

Mary Beth Beetham is the Director of Legislative Affairs at Defenders of Wildlife

32 Responses to “Not-So-Easy Riders: House Bill is Chock-Full of Bad Wildlife Policy”

  1. Alison Nelson

    Our representatives must stop killing our children’s future by supporting these types of bills. Our kids deserve better. Time to start voting for what is right.

    Reply
  2. vicki

    This is just another ploy for the rich. This let’s them build big homes and golf courses

    Reply
  3. cindy

    The power goes to their heads. They become numb to do the right thing. These representatives have no clue other than line their pockets and appease whatever the big boys club wants for themselves and their popularity among their groupies.

    Reply
  4. P. Dyer

    Critics say this is a “do-nothing” Congress. Unfortunately, they ARE doing things like passing deliberately destructive measures like this. Too bad they don’t have anything CONSTRUCTIVE to do. Congress is a complete joke!

    Reply
  5. Douglas Caverly

    Don’t support this bill. endangered wildlife and our enviroment need to be protected.

    Reply
  6. T

    Ugh the government, always working against what’s truly right in the world. I was hoping for a more responsible administration.

    Reply
  7. T

    And it’s a weird thing that we are forced to tell politicians decide what is right rather than science. Science allows for decisions to be made based on factual evidence. Politicians allow for decisions to be made based on greed and personal agendas. Pretty messed up system, no wonder all living and breathing creatures in this country are on a downward spiral of demise.

    Reply
  8. Pamela A.McGowan

    Don’t support this bill. Give wildlife the clean and safe environment that they deserve.

    Reply
  9. Lyn

    If the article had provided the House bill number, we could write our Congressman about it, or better yet confront them while they’re home campaigning.
    There are a few key issues in this article that make me question the candor, for example:
    “Here is just a sampling of what the other anti-environmental riders in the bill could do”
    COULD being the key word here. Is this conjecture? Either it does or does not.
    I would like to fight this bill, but this article is lacking in the facts needed to begin.

    Reply
    • Michael Jarrett

      These “riders” are added to legislation at all levels of our legislative branches of government, by taking these actions in Washington, these “additions” provide ammunition to individuals on the state and local levels.
      This kind of legislation is used by those who fear being exposed supporting “special interests” by the press, opposing the best interests of the men and women that voted them into office.
      This kind of legislation would give legal support to a foreign conglomerate, that wishes to remove the environment & wildlife issues from the equation, when they want to expand an open pit mine in sensitive areas.
      The Uranium mining operation near the Grand Canyon National Park, and the Rosemont Mine in southern Arizona, are two excellent examples.

  10. Pamela

    I want to see who wrote these in and which Representatives want this.
    Some are up for reelection.

    Reply
    • Nancy Mehan

      I also want to know who is behind these anti-environmental riders.

  11. Suzy Hayes-Tripp

    Our current CONGRESS has been dubbed “the most anti-environmental Congress, EVER”. Go to “thewhitehouse.gov” to get an accurate accounting of how true this statement is. The legislation SOME are writing & passing will make a grown man cry!

    Reply
  12. Wendy

    What can we do? Is there a letter that you have that we can send? If something has been working for a 100 years, why change it? Geez!!

    Reply
  13. Melissa Warfield

    What does this government think they are doing! I have this quote I found from Chief Seattle: “What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of the Spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected”. – Chief Seattle (1780 – 1866) – Duwamish Chief. Unquote. Can’t the government see that it is happening NOW and will never end until man disappears from this Planet! I do believe they are just for themselves and do not care about the rest of the Planet.

    Reply
  14. JEAN PUBLI

    I AGREE THE RIDERS ARE BAD. THEY ALWAYS ARE. HOWEVER, ALOT OF THE MONEY WE ARE GIVING TO AGENCIES LIKE FWS IS BEING WASTED. ARE GENERAL TAXPAYERS TO BE GOUGED TO PAY TAXES TO REBUILD THE SAGE GROUS POPULATION SO HUNTERS CAN USE THEM AS LIVE TARGETS AS THEY HAVE BEEN DOING. WHY? WHY IF WE ARE SAVING AND PROTECTING, CANT THE LAWS TRULY SAVE AND PROTECT FROM WILDLIFE MURDERERS? WHY LET THEM HAVE JOY IN KILLING WHAT WE PAID THROUGH THE NOSE TO PROTECT.

    Reply
  15. Julie Cain

    This is our fault. We must quit voting in idiots to congress…In ancient China anyone who held a public office had to pass a test to get there…Maybe we should pass a law that any of our public officials must do the same.

    Reply
  16. olive hershey

    I, too, would like to know who are the people in Congress who are slapping on the detestable riders. Give us their names, addresses, phone numbers so we can put a little pressure on. The article lacks focus in that regard. Whose interests are served by these riders? That’s the real question. Is it the Koch brothers? The developers? The oil companies? Urban sprawl? Seems the only way to save habitat is to use the tool landowners are using already: putting their land into a conservation easement to preserve a place for these animals and birds.

    Reply
  17. Philip Ratcliff

    Of course, all of these anti-environmental bills coming out of the GOP-controlled House go nowhere in the Senate. If the GOP takes over the Senate, all kinds of garbage bills will be forwarded to Obama for his signature. He can’t veto them all. Some riders will be attached to “must-sign” bills.

    Reply
  18. Cori

    I guess it’s now our “Do Nothing Good” Congress, stuffing their election coffers with plenty of “speech”. Thanks to Citizens United, most are now wholly owned corporate subsidiaries.

    Reply
  19. Leslie Stanick

    The House Bill Wildlife Policy is shockingly stupid. Why all the support for hunters, who are polluting the water and land with lead…this will damage ecosystems for hundreds of years. It will come back to haunt us all.

    Reply
  20. DR. PRUDENCE BROOKS

    WELL, IF OUR GOVERNMENT IS SO OFF-THE-WALL, AND OUR LEADERSHIP REMAINS SO FRAIL, AND OUR FRIENDS ARE NO LONGER LISTENING, THEN WE MIGHT HAVE TO TAKE OVER FOR THEM!!! THIS IS A DISGRACE TO THE HUMAN RACE, AS WELL AS TO OUR COUNTRYMEN. TO WANTONLY AND BRAZENLY IGNORE THE PLIGHT OF OUR ECOSYSTEM FOR A FEW GAINS. TO IGNORE THE WELFARE OF OUR WOLVES AND OTHER LARGER PREDATORS, TO HAVE LOST HEART AND SOUL FOR A WORLD OUT OF CONTROL, IS HEARTLESS.

    Reply
  21. Kathleen Cameron

    I continue to care about giving our representatives the info they need to protect our country!

    Reply

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