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September 29, 2005

On the Pombo Bill

Like you, we at Oceana simply demand courage and competence from the people who are supposed to enforce the conservation laws on which our future depends.

Our faith in the competence of our political leaders is being tested right now.

Believe it or not, THIS WEEK the House of Representatives is planning to vote on a bill that will eviscerate critical protections of the Endangered Species Act. These radical changes undo measures that have protected wildlife threatened by extinction, such as whales, sea otters, and sea turtles.

Passed in 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is widely considered the most prominent wildlife protection legislation in the world. It has been CRITICAL to the work we do to protect and restore the oceans, and is a bulwark against utter conservation failure — the extinction of a species.

The 2005 bill is sponsored by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) and strips fundamental conservation provisions from the Endangered Species Act. On the ocean, its main beneficiaries include big industrial fishing companies that capture threatened wildlife, injuring or killing the animals in their huge nets. Among other things, the bill:

  • Eliminates protection for the land and water endangered species call home, territory critical to their recovery
  • Uses taxpayer dollars to pay industrial groups to not destroy endangered habitat and species
  • Weakens the role of science in defining what areas and species need protection under the ESA, allowing political appointees — not leading scientists — to decide which data can be considered
  • Bypasses currently required consultations with wildlife experts when evaluating threats to endangered species

Many marine species, and the habitat they need to thrive, have benefited from the protections of the Endangered Species Act. The green sea turtle, for example, was designated under the ESA as being endangered with the threat of extinction just 27 years ago. Since then, the species has begun to rebound due in part to habitat protections established as part of the requirements for species listed as protected under the ESA. The eastern North Pacific population of gray whales was the first marine mammal “de-listed” from the ESA, this population having recovered to near its estimated original population size.

These and other wildlife protections’ success stories are directly due to the design and implementation of the Endangered Species Act. We cannot let Mr. Pombo’s bill destroy what you and I have fought for and continue to achieve in protecting and conserving a healthy planet. This bill will push species closer to extinction — not recovery.

Click here to find out what you can do to stop this.

It is not, I believe, a coincidence, that Rep. Pombo’s attack on America’s conservation law occurs right now, while the news is filled with hurricane recovery, Supreme Court nominations, and reports from Iraq. Polls show that vast numbers of Americans oppose weakening conservation protections — with as many as as 86% of Americans supporting a strong Endangered Species Act. Yet Rep. Pombo’s terrible bill was voted out of his committee in the House of Representatives last week with virtually no press coverage. As a result, most Americans would have no way of knowing that this astonishing revision of our longstanding conservation law is underway. This is exactly what Rep. Pombo hoped for.

Please let your Representative know that you are opposed to Mr. Pombo’s bill. If you want to know more about this bill, or its status on Capitol Hill over the coming days, please don’t hesitate to send me an email.