As the effects of climate change become more pronounced, wildlife will be faced with ever greater challenges to their survival. Polar bears already are suffering from melting sea ice, desert animals will face more drought, and sea creatures will be forced to deal with the increasing acidification their ocean environments becoming more acidic. It is essential that funding be made available for protecting wildlife from the effects of global warming. The American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House in June 2009, would create a natural resources adaptation fund. LCV strongly supports this provision.
Endangered Species Act
A Cornerstone Environmental Law
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is one of America's cornerstone environmental laws and has produced a number of success stories. Perhaps the most famous of these is the bald eagle, a national icon that, due in a large part to the pesticide DDT, had dwindled to fewer than 500 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states in the 1960s. Today, thanks to the protections of the ESA, the bald eagle population has recovered dramatically. Nearly 10,000 breeding pairs now thrive within the contiguous U.S. Over 1,300 plant and animal species are protected under the ESA, including blue whales, American alligators, grizzly bears, and California condors.
Threats to Endangered Species
The ESA was under siege for much of the George W. Bush era. In 2004, the administration released rules that bypassed consultation with scientists on certain endangered species issues. In 2005, then House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) tried to pass a law that would have severely weakened the ESA, but could not move his bill through the Senate.
More Work to be Done
President Obama signed a presidential memorandum in March 2009 requiring agencies to consult with scientists when making decisions that could affect species protected under the ESA. This order restored provisions mandated by the original ESA and negated a last-minute attempt by President Bush to weaken the law. This was an important step, but much work remains to be done. Early in 2009, the Rocky Mountain gray wolf population lost its ESA protections, meaning that wolves in Montana and Idaho can be hunted once again. Wolves were hunted virtually to extinction in these states in the early 1900s, and now the door is open for history to repeat itself. LCV is dedicated to ensuring that our vulnerable and irreplaceable wildlife receive the protections they need.