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08/30/2011

Protecting Endangered Species from Congress


Fran hunt 2 Of course we here at the Sierra Club love animals. To help share that love, we put together this amazing slideshow of endangered animals in photos by Joel Sartore. Some are cuddly-looking, some, even I admit, are slimy – all deserve protection.

The Endangered Species Act is regarded as one of the strongest conservation laws the world has ever seen, and it has had an astounding effect bringing species back from the edge of extinction and preserving biodiversity in this country. Its power lies in sound, science-based management, free from political interference.

Yet as this slideshow notes, “this lifesaving legal protection continues to face political attacks. Joel Sartore's photographs remind us that if we do not protect rare species, we'll be left with only frozen mementos of the beautiful creatures we allowed to slip away.”

And unfortunately, these political attacks are already happening. Earlier this year, Congress removed the Gray Wolf from the Endangered Species List in ID and MT.

Then wolves got even more of a raw deal when, earlier this month, the state of Wyoming and the federal government reached a deal that would allow almost two-thirds of the wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park to be killed, and require the state to maintain just 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves outside of the park. Under the deal, wolves in the vast majority of the state could be shot on sight. Licenses would only be required to kill wolves near the park.

And those are threats just to wolves – but endangered species of all kinds are threatened by political meddling. Some are trying to overturn a recent ruling that the government isn’t protecting Columbia-Snake River salmon. There’s talk of Congress gutting the entire Endangered Species Act (but calling it a “re-authorization’) when they return from recess in September.

Even the most uncharismatic of creatures play a critical role in an eco-system and deserve protection. For example, many question the benefit of protecting a small fish called the Delta Smelt. But protecting the “lowly” Delta Smelt also protects important salmon and steelhead populations, which has very important economic and ecological implications. 

We need to keep the politics out of the science of protecting our animals­ and, really, our entire national heritage. Endangered species are facing growing threats from habitat loss and fragmentation, development, and climate disruption – which is the largest threat that our natural heritage has ever faced.

By protecting important habitats, we are protecting ourselves. We are protecting our drinking water, forests that filter and clean the air, and the places that offer us recreation opportunities. And those great places where outdoor recreation is so popular see the economic benefits as well.

The effects of climate disruption are already being felt on even our most pristine landscapes. Setting aside areas where development is restricted is no longer enough - we must now actively work to create resilient habitats where plants, animals, and people are able to survive and thrive on a warmer planet.

-- Frances Hunt, Resilient Habitats Campaign Director

 

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