Push to weaken US Endangered Species Act runs into roadblocks

Source: Nature

America's Endangered Species Act — which protects more than 2,000 plant, animal and insect species at risk of extinction — is under renewed attack from Republican politicians. But policy experts say that their efforts face an uphill battle, even though Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress.

On 19 July, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed policy changes that would make it easier to delist species and harder to add new ones, among other things. And in recent weeks, legislators in the US House of Representatives have gone further by introducing around 12 bills aimed at altering the law itself.

Some of the bills wending their way through Congress would roll back protections on species including the Northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) and the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus). Lawmakers say that this is to remove barriers to the activities of businesses such as oil and gas companies. Other bills propose fundamental changes to the law, for example by narrowing the range of habitats deemed necessary for organisms to recover or weakening safeguards for threatened species.