Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Blasts Plan to Gut Endangered Species Act

Aug 26, 2019
Press Release
Urges Interior, Commerce Dept to Reconsider “Assault Against Nature”. Key Safeguards for Nation’s Most Vulnerable Species Would be Lifted

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan today urged the Trump Administration to drop plans to weaken the Endangered Species Act, calling the proposal “an assault against nature.”

“I am writing today to urge you to reconsider the Interior and Commerce Department’s ill-advised proposal to eliminate key protections established by the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” Buchanan said in his letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “The more than 45-year-old law is the gold standard for conservation and the protection of wildlife.”

Specifically, the administration’s new plan would:

  • Eliminate automatic protections for threatened plant and animal species. Under current law all threatened species receive the same protections as endangered species.
  • Reduce the current requirements for scientific review and consultation with federal agencies before approving permits for activities such as oil and gas drilling and construction projects.
  • Make it easier to remove a species from threatened or endangered status by reducing the current set of requirements for delisting.

Buchanan strongly denounced the rule when it was initially announced in 2018 in a letter to administration officials. Barring any actions to block or amend the proposal, the final rule is set to take effect 30 days after it is formally published in the Federal Register.

“It would be unconscionable to weaken the very safeguards that have kept these animals alive for nearly half a century, especially in the wake of a recent UN report showing that one million species of wildlife and plants are now threatened with extinction across the globe,” Buchanan stated.

In May, Buchanan introduced the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, which would authorize the Interior secretary to designate National Wildlife Corridors on federal lands and establish an annual $50 million grant program for states, localities and private land owners to increase connectivity for native species.

Buchanan’s bill would protect many iconic species of Florida wildlife, including the panther, manatee and alligator. The Florida panther is one of the best examples of an animal that could benefit from the establishment of a federal wildlife corridor. The panther currently is concentrated in Southern Florida, but establishing a corridor would allow the animals to travel to existing protected areas like the Apalachicola National Forest.

The Endangered Species Act was signed into law by former President Richard Nixon in 1973.

Buchanan, who is co-chair of the Animal Protection Caucus, is a past recipient of the Humane Society’s “Legislator of the Year” award.

The full text of the letter is below:

I am writing today to urge you to reconsider the Interior and Commerce Department’s ill-advised proposal to eliminate key protections established by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The more than 45-year-old law is the gold standard for conservation and the protection of wildlife.

This landmark law has been essential to safeguarding our most vulnerable wildlife, which includes the American bald eagle, the California condor and the Florida manatee. Since being enacted, the ESA has been so successful that 99 percent of the species placed under its purview have been saved from extinction.  

The new regulations will make it easier to remove an endangered species from key protections as well as place threatened species at greater risk of becoming extinct. Not affording threatened species the same protections as endangered species, and instead determining their protections on a “case by case basis” places these animals at risk and undermines the chances of helping the species recover.

The proposed rule would also make it more difficult to protect the critical habitats where these vulnerable animals live. It would be unconscionable to weaken the very safeguards that have kept these animals alive for nearly half a century, especially in the wake of a recent UN report showing that one million species of wildlife and plants are now threatened with extinction across the globe

Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity warned that, “these changes crash a bulldozer through the Endangered Species Act’s lifesaving protections for America’s most vulnerable wildlife.”  

The case of the iconic Florida Panther, one of world's rarest cats, is currently undergoing a mandatory five-year review. If the Fish and Wildlife Service chooses to downgrade the panther from endangered to threatened, despite my strong opposition, it could be subject to this new rule and lose many of the vital protections it needs to survive. 

Once a species becomes extinct, it is forever lost. We have a duty as the caretakers of our nation’s natural resources to preserve the wild species that call our country home. The proposed rulemaking goes directly against this responsibility.

I look forward to your prompt response on this vitally important matter. 

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