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02/10/2014

House Republicans Continue Push to Unravel Endangered Species Protections

OR Chub riverOregon Chub habitat, photo courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

A three-inch-long minnow native to Oregon became the ultimate underdog success story this week. The Oregon chub (Oregonichthys crameri) was initially listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1993. The species was down to a population of fewer than 1,000, but thanks to the action and protection of the Endangered Species Act, the Oregon chub's population has been restored to nearly 160,000. The removal of the Oregon chub from the Endangered Species Act is a huge success not only for the Act but also for its implementation as part of a productive collaboration between employees at the federal, state, and local level with the help of landowners. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber asserts, "The delisting of the Oregon chub is the product of remarkable partnerships by committed people who have advanced Oregon's natural legacy while showing that economic health is not only possible but strengthened by efforts to recover and safeguard native fish and wildlife."

The Oregon chub joins a happy group of endangered-species success stories and can now sit alongside animals such as the brown pelican, the gray whale, the southern sea otter, and the ever popular bald eagle, which also managed to bounce back from the brink of extinction.

Despite this latest chapter in a strong history of how well the Endangered Species Act works, last week House Republicans released their latest roadmap for undoing protections for our nation's wildlife. This roadmap trots out many tired and factually inaccurate arguments, disregards science, sets unrealistic timelines, and offers false choices between conservation and economic benefit. And while Republicans bemoan the number of species moved off of the endangered species list, they continue to fundamentally undermine species' recovery by continually cutting the budget of the Fish and Wildlife Service. By all accounts, the Act is a resounding success.Of all plants and animals ever protected under the Act, 99 percent have been saved from extinction, and populations of the majority of plants and animals protected under the Act are stable or increasing in size.

As President Obama said, "Throughout our history, there's been a tension between those who've sought to conserve our natural resources for the benefit of future generations and those who have sought to profit from these resources. But I'm here to tell you this is a false choice." We can have a productive economy while protecting important endangered species, and the recovery of the Oregon chub is the latest example to prove it.  

The Endangered Species Act is undeniably one of the most important pieces of legislation that has been signed into law in the past 50 years, and it is credited with bringing back invaluable species from the brink of extinction. From the majestic bald eagle to the Oregon chub, the Endangered Species Act works, and will continue to work as a safety net for our native species, despite outlandish claims by some in Congress.

-- By Foley Pfalzgraf


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