Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Slams Plan to Weaken Endangered Species Act

Jul 23, 2018
Press Release

Calls Proposal “Assault Against Nature

Tells Trump Administration “Withdraw Immediately”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, co-chair of the Animal Protection Caucus in Congress, called on the Trump administration today to withdraw a plan weakening the Endangered Species Act. Buchanan said the plan is “an assault against nature” that would lead to the extinction of wildlife. 

“I am writing today to urge you to withdraw immediately a dangerous and ill-advised proposal to gut key protections in the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” Buchanan said in his letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “The 45-year-old law is the gold standard for conservation and the protection of wildlife.”

Buchanan noted that in his home state, the manatee, Florida panther and the alligator have all been under federal protections. In fact, it is estimated that more than 200 species are still in existence today thanks to the law. 

The Interior and Commerce Departments’ proposed regulations would make it easier to remove a species now on the list, make it more difficult to list a new species for protection and weaken safeguards for critical habitats where these animals live. Another alarming provision would end the requirement that federal agencies consult with scientists and wildlife agencies before approving permits for activities such as oil and gas drilling.

“It would be unconscionable to weaken the very safeguards that have kept these animals alive for the past four decades,” Buchanan said. 

Buchanan has been a leader in Congress on animal protection issues and was the U.S. Humane Society’s Legislator of the Year in 2015.

Read Buchanan‘s full letter below:

July 23, 2018

The Honorable Ryan Zinke                  The Honorable Wilbur Ross

Secretary                                                    Secretary

Department of the Interior                  Department of Commerce

1849 C Street, NW                                   1401 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20240                         Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear Secretaries Zinke and Ross,

I am writing today to urge you to withdraw immediately a dangerous and ill-advised proposal to gut key protections in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The 45-year-old law is the gold standard for conservation and the protection of wildlife.

This landmark law has been essential to protecting our most vulnerable wildlife including the American bald eagle, the California condor and the Florida manatee. Since its enactment, the ESA has been so successful that 99 percent of the species placed under its protection have been saved from extinction.  

If implemented, however, these new regulations will not only make it easier to remove an endangered species from key protections, but 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 the past four decades.

Brett Hartl, the director of government affairs at the Center for Biological Diversity warned that “these proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife.”  

Also alarming is the provision that will no longer afford threatened species the same protections as endangered species, and instead determine their protections on a “case-by-case basis.” But, as New York law professor Richard Steward points out, the logic behind current law was that “if you wait until the species’ numbers are actually small enough that it’s going to become extinct, it may be difficult or too late” to save it. Instead, the threatened list is intended to anticipate the species’ decline in advance and act to save it. This is just common sense. 

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. 

I am also extremely concerned about a provision that would no longer require federal agencies to consult with scientists and wildlife agencies before approving permits for activities such as oil and gas drilling. According to a former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, “these regulations are at the very heart of how the Endangered Species Act is implemented” and “would undercut the effectiveness of the ESA and out species at risk of extinction.”

Once a species becomes extinct, it is lost forever. As caretakers of this country’s diverse natural resources, we should do everything in our power to protect these magnificent creatures.

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