Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 26, 2017

Contact:         Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449,

Sen. Heller of Nevada Introduces Legislation to Gut Endangered Species Act

Proposal Would End Protections for More Than 1,100 Species, Prohibit Citizen Involvement in Protecting Wildlife, Politicize Science

WASHINGTON— U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) has introduced legislation that would dismantle the Endangered Species Act by immediately stripping protections from every single endangered species until Congress passed a resolution of approval. Heller's proposal calls for gutting protections for species found only within a single state's boundaries and eliminating the longstanding legal authority of ordinary citizens under the Act to submit petitions seeking federal protection for imperiled plants and animals.

“Sen. Heller's extreme bill would leave the Endangered Species Act in tatters, which is exactly his goal,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada wildlife advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “From the tiny Mount Charleston blue butterfly to the desert tortoise, the Devil's Hole pupfish and the first gray wolves returning to Nevada, all of these amazing animals would be put on a fast track to extinction.”

The purported “Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act” would require Congress to pass a joint resolution every five years just to keep endangered plants and animals on the endangered species list. If Congress did not pass the resolution, every endangered species would immediately lose protection under the law, even those on the very brink of extinction. And with the filibuster, any one senator could effectively undo protections for all of our most endangered wildlife.

The legislation would also allow governors to take over management of species occurring only in one state with no requirement that such management be equivalent to Endangered Species Act protections. Heller's plan would severely undermine protections for as many as 1,100 species, including nearly 500 species in Hawaii alone and at least one species in most states across the country. Under this provision states could take over management of species perceived to conflict with powerful special interests, provide little to no protection, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be powerless to intercede.

“Like an ark for nearly 1,800 species, the Endangered Species Act has been incredibly successful, preventing the extinction of more than 99 percent of species in its care and putting hundreds more on the road to recovery,” said Donnelly. “Sen. Heller would throw all of our endangered species into the water with no chance of rescue.”

Sen. Heller's legislation would also completely eliminate the ability of ordinary citizens to participate in the protection of endangered species through petitions to protect species under the Endangered Species Act. Scientific research has demonstrated clearly that citizens both identified species at greater risk of extinction and sped protection for species stuck in the process. 

“This atrocious bill will make it much harder for species on the brink of extinction to get the protection they desperately need,” said Donnelly. “It's sad that Sen. Heller continues to turn his back on our environment and our most vulnerable wildlife rather than trying to find actual solutions — such as fully funding endangered species recovery — to benefit these amazing species.”

Since Republicans retook the House of Representatives in January 2011, they have launched more than 256 legislative attacks on endangered species. The 115th Congress has already introduced 24 attacks on the Act since January. The frequency of these attacks continues to increase despite the fact that nine out of 10 Americans want the Act strengthened or left unchanged by Congress, according to a 2015 poll.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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