Stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Undermining the Endangered Species Act

Target: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe

Goal: Use balanced, scientific policy to decide whether a species should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

In December 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a draft policy on how it plans to interpret a species’ habitat range when considering listing it under the ESA. The act requires a species to be protected not only if it is at risk for global extinction, but also if it is at risk in any “significant portion of its range” (SPOIR). The new policy would require the species to be threatened as a whole to be protected, rather than just in a historical habitat. If this policy were implemented a few decades ago, Americans would have to travel to Alaska to see creatures such as the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the gray wolf.

The new policy would severely limit the number of species listed for protection under the ESA. A species could be extinct across 90 percent of its habitat, but so long as the population is healthy in a single area, that species would be denied protection. Also, the policy refuses to consider the historic distribution of a species when determining if the species is at risk of extinction in any SPOIR. Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA) notes that this policy creates many loopholes in species protection and would set the bar for listing declining species at far too high a threshold.

The best example of the implications of this policy is that the bald eagle would have never been listed as an endangered species in the lower 48 states because healthy populations existed in Alaska. This policy wouldn’t have even accounted for the habitat loss in the worst period of DDT usage. The draft policy is not consistent with Congress’ intent and the ESA because it does not take a balanced, scientific approach to whether a species should be protected and considering historic ranges of declining species.

As our population explodes and we encroach upon wildlife habitats with new developments, it is critical to enact protections for threatened and endangered species. The draft policy issued by the FWS takes a museum-style approach to species protection, as people would have to venture to wilderness locations such as Alaska to see them. Ensure biodiversity is preserved across the U.S. by stopping the FWS from undermining the ESA.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Ashe,

The draft policy issued by the FWS would severely undermine the intentions of the Endangered Species Act. The standards for species protection would be set so high, people would have to venture to Alaska to see the last remaining populations of some creatures.

The policy undermines the intentions of Congress and the ESA as it does not take an unbiased, scientific approach to species protection and historic ranges of declining species. If this policy had been implemented in the 1970s, bald eagles would have gone extinct in the lower 48 states, even during the era of widespread DDT usage.

As our population explodes and we encroach upon wildlife habitats with new developments, it is critical to protect our biodiversity. Please don’t raise the minimum requirements for listing species for protection under the ESA.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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