For Immediate Release, July 20, 2022
Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121, email@example.com
Sens. Manchin, Daines Attack Climate Protections for Endangered Species
WASHINGTON— The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider and mark up a number of bills on Thursday, including S. 2561, which would alter the requirements for the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management regarding when they must update their land-management plans to protect endangered species.
An amendment that appears to have been agreed upon by Chairman Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Steve Daines (R.-Mont.) would exempt the land-management agencies from updating their plans based on “new information” about the harm occurring to endangered species that live on public lands. Such new information often includes the increasingly severe impacts of climate change, including drought and extreme forest fires, which are rapidly degrading and destroying the habitat of endangered species.
“Prohibiting our land-management agencies from considering climate impacts that are ravaging our public lands is disgraceful and will drive species extinct,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Just days after Senator Manchin killed climate legislation in Congress, he’s doubling down, trying to codify climate denial into law. It’s clear Manchin doesn’t care about endangered wildlife, the health of West Virginia’s national forests, or the climate crisis. All he cares about is enriching the special interests that line his pockets and keep his trough full.”
Under the Endangered Species Act, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management must develop and update their land-management plans every 15 years, a deadline they routinely miss. In completing these plans, they must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop conservation measures to protect threatened and endangered species.
The regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act require all federal agencies, including all land-management agencies, to reinitiate consultations when new information shows that harm to endangered species is occurring in ways and to extents not considered in the earlier consultation process. Agencies must also reinitiate consultation if injuries or deaths to endangered species exceed the original limits set forth during consultation.
Out of the 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, on average, one or two national forests each year are required to reinitiate consultations on their land-management plans based on impacts to endangered species from events like extreme weather and wildfire.
Such consultations do not take long to complete. For example, several national forests in the Sierra Nevada mountains were able to complete the reinitiation consultations on the impacts to endangered frogs in just 10 days following the designation of critical habitat for Yosemite toads and Sierra Nevada and mountain yellow-legged frogs.
In 2018, when the Republican Party held control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, Sen. Daines successfully passed the so-called “Cottonwood” rider, which temporarily exempted the Forest Service from the requirement to reassess and potentially strengthen land-management plans after a species was listed or critical habitat was designated on the affected national forest. That temporary exemption ends next year and the current legislation being proposed would make the exemption permanent, include all lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and expand the exemption to include “new information.”
“As our planet burns and hundreds of millions suffer through extreme heat events right now, Senator Manchin would direct federal agencies to stick their heads in the sand and ignore the problem,” said Hartl. “No senator who cares about the climate crisis and imperiled wildlife should vote for this boneheaded legislation.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.