WASHINGTON— Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee today released a partisan funding bill for the U.S. Department of the Interior that continues to underfund endangered species conservation and ignores the wildlife extinction crisis happening around the world.
The bill also contains a rider that would prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from protecting the imperiled sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
“In the midst of a global extinction crisis, Senate Republicans are turning a blind eye to the animals and plants in desperate need of our help,” said Stephanie Kurose, an endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The pandemic was caused by our careless exploitation and destruction of the natural world. Republicans are showing they’re incapable of learning that basic lesson.”
Though the Fish and Wildlife Service faces a backlog of more than 500 species waiting for decisions on their protection under the Endangered Species Act, the Senate bill only provides $20.3 million for the listing of imperiled species and designation of critical habitat. At least 47 species have already gone extinct waiting for protection.
Last year the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, known as IPBES, warned governments around the world that 1 million species are now at risk of extinction because of human activity. IPBES scientists said urgent actions are needed to avert mass extinction in the coming decades.
And last month IPBES released a new report that linked zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 to “unsustainable exploitation of the environment,” including the wildlife trade and land-use change. The new findings echo a recent Center for Biological Diversity report.
Today’s bill fails to provide funding to address the root causes of the COVID-19 pandemic — our relentless exploitation of wildlife and destruction of habitat — which has so far killed more than 230,000 Americans.
Earlier this year a group of scientists concluded that spending $22-$31 billion to curb habitat loss, deforestation and wildlife trade and monitor and control disease emergence would dramatically reduce the risk of another pandemic. That represents just 2% of the total estimated economic loss — $10-$20 trillion — inflicted on the global economy by COVID-19.
“The American people just said loud and clear that they reject Republicans’ anti-environment, anti-science agenda and don’t want more of the same,” said Kurose.