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Undermining The Endangered Species Act

Guest Nancy Pelosi

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Guest Nancy Pelosi

“With the passage of the first endangered species law in 1966, and the modern Endangered Species Act in 1973, Congress made a commitment to future generations of Americans. We made a commitment to maintain the web of life and preserve the myriad species that form an essential part of our natural heritage. We must keep that commitment, for the sake of our children and our grandchildren.


“The Endangered Species Act is a safety net for wildlife, fish, and plants that are on the brink of extinction. When other environmental laws have not provided enough protection, the Endangered Species Act is there to give endangered species one last chance to survive. Of the 1,800 species protected by the law, only nine species have been declared extinct—an impressive achievement. The safety net saved our majestic national symbol, the bald eagle, and the peregrine falcon. It is saving the Florida manatee, the grizzly bear, the southern sea otter, sea turtles, and many other animals and plants.


“On the floor of this House, week after week, month after month, the Republican leadership pushes through legislation that shreds the safety net for children, for veterans, for the elderly, for the poor, for the sick and disabled. It comes as no surprise that today they bring us a bill that will shred the safety net for endangered plants and animals, which is unfortunate because it relates to the balance of nature.


“We find these words from the Psalms: ‘How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small.’


“In wisdom God has made them all, ‘living things both large and small,’ and in wisdom we should preserve and protect them.


“We have yet to learn the roles that many creatures play in the web of life, and we have yet to discover the practical benefits many species may bring to humankind. One example in California, the Pacific forest yew, once considered virtually useless – a trash tree, became extremely valuable as the source for the anti-cancer drug Taxol. Many of us have dear friends or family members whose chances of survival have been increased by the use of Taxol.


“The bill we consider today is loaded with provisions that will make it harder to preserve endangered species. It undermines sound science by directing the Secretary of the Interior, a political appointee, to issue regulations locking in a static definition of acceptable scientific data. It repeals all protections from pesticides. It drops the requirement for other federal agencies to consult with the wildlife experts at the Fish and Wildlife service or the fisheries experts at the National Marine Fisheries Service. It establishes an extraordinary new entitlement program for developers and speculators that requires taxpayers to pay them unlimited amounts of money. The list goes on and on.


“Reasonable people agree that there are ways to improve the Endangered Species Act. Many people who care very much about the environment, the balance of nature, the web of life, have concerns about the enforcement. I think that’s why it’s important for Congress to be very clear about what our intent is, so that intention of Congress and the clarity of our voices here will give guidance to those who enforce the law and so that the implementation and execution of it is not in a way that is so risk averse as to be counterproductive.


“We can do better than the current law, but it’s hard to do worse than the legislation being proposed by Mr. Pombo. That’s why my colleague from California, George Miller, joined by a bipartisan group of Members, with Sherwood Boehlert taking the lead on the Republican side, has developed a substitute to this bill that gives landowners assistance and incentives to protect endangered species, strengthens the science behind the Endangered Species Act, and requires improved coordination with the states.


“I urge my colleagues to strengthen the Endangered Species Act by voting for the bipartisan substitute and opposing this underlying bill.


“As Members of Congress, to truly show our children that we mean it when we say that we all know that everything in nature is connected and it’s important to maintain the balance of the web of life. In the book of Isaiah, in the Old Testament, we are told that to minister to the needs of God’s creation, and that includes our beautiful environment, is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.


“Let us minister to the needs of God’s creations, let us support the substitute and oppose the underlying bill.”

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