The Endangered Species Act was created to protect wild creatures from human activity and destruction of their habitat. Now it is the ESA itself that is in danger. Many bills introduced in Congress seek to weaken or go around it. For example, the Polar Bear Delisting Bill would take polar bears off the endangered species list. It was presented to Congress by Don Young, Republican from Alaska. He has strong ties to the oil industry, and has actually been investigated for criminal behavior for allegedly accepting bribes from a very large oil engineering firm. Some of the bribes might have been used to renovate parts of his home.
Frank Guinta, a Republican from New Hampshire, introduced a bill to prevent bluefin tuna from being protected by the ESA. Mr. Guinta’s election campaign was aided by David Koch, of the Koch brothers who are known for financially backing the Tea Party, with the billions of dollars made in part by their oil business.
Bluefin tuna may well be on the verge of extinction due to rampant overfishing. This year a single bluefin tuna sold for nearly $400,000 in a Tokyo fish market. It is very highly prized by sushi restaurants and consumers in Japan. Outside of Japan a growing number of restaurants and consumers have pledged to boycott the poor tuna, to help them survive.
Another Republican, Mr. Bishop of Utah, introduced a bill that would exempt activities related to border security from the Endangered Species Act protections, meaning that land and species living near borders would no longer have any legal shield. He had the audacity to title it the “National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act”, as if the land needs protecting, but none of the wild species that live there do. One way this bill could harm animals is it would allow road-building in sensitive wild habitat.
Lest you believe it is only Republicans who are trying to get around or weaken legal wildlife protections, consider a bill called the “More Water for Our Valley Act, 2011“, introduced by Democrat Jim Costa. He was born on a farm, and has spent some part of his political career fighting for more water for farmers, but shifting water towards agriculture will likely reduce Delta smelt and salmon populations that are already suffering. It might as well be called, “The Less Water for Fish Act”.
Sadly, these are just several of the attempts to weaken protection of wild animals in America by our own members of Congress. The National Resources Defense Council reported there are 23 such bills in Congress that are attempts to exempt some animals from protection or to weaken the ESA.
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