WASHINGTON— A new bill in the Senate will provide $20 million per year to some of the most endangered species in the United States, including butterflies, Hawaiian plants, freshwater mussels and desert fish in the Southwest.
The bill was introduced late Friday by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.).
The Senate bill, which mirrors legislation introduced in May by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.),would create four separate conservation funds that each provide $5 million per year. These funds would support on-the-ground conservation projects to stabilize and save the most critically endangered species from extinction within each of the four groups of species.
The legislation comes in response to a landmark scientific report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which warned that 1 million species are being pushed to extinction by human activities.
“This legislation is a critical lifeline for species staring extinction in the face,” said Stephanie Kurose, endangered species policy specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These butterflies, plants, fish and mussels are on the front lines of the global wildlife extinction crisis. The Trump administration is only making things worse, so it’s heartening to see the Senate taking this action.”
While most animals and plants protected by the Endangered Species Act are improving, some species continue to decline, primarily due to a lack of funding for conservation and recovery efforts.
A 2016 study found that Congress only provides approximately 3.5 % of the funding that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s own scientists estimate is needed to recover species. Roughly 1 in 4 species receive less than $10,000 a year.
The legislation would support programs like the Hawaiian Plant Extinction Prevention Program, which works to save more than 237 endangered plant species, each of which has fewer than 50 plants remaining in the wild. Since the program’s inception in 2003, no Hawaiian plants have gone extinct. But the Trump administration gutted this effort’s funding last year.