Defenders View

Defenders President Jamie Rappaport Clark, © Krista Schlyer

We are in for some tough times, folks. If past strong anti-wildlife conservation efforts and horrible voting records are any indication, we should expect the new wave of Senate leaders will pursue a radical and sweeping assault on America’s wildlife and public lands. 

As the new chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the consummate climate change denier, will push to overturn anything the Obama administration has done to address climate change. Expect him also to work relentlessly to undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the landmark legislation that has recovered the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, American alligator and so many more. 

His partner in attacking public lands will be Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). As chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, she will do all that she can to increase logging and energy development on federal lands and waters and will push to open the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. We’ll feel like we are in the movie “Groundhog Day” as she again tries to ram a destructive road through sensitive wetlands and protected wilderness in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. We won this fight during the Clinton administration, and again last year, but Sen. Murkowski will be relentless in pursuing this road.

On the House side, look for incoming Natural Resources Committee chair Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) to work to undermine the ESA and post a “for sale” sign on our public lands. He will also be able to pick and choose from the long list of anti-ESA proposals that Rep. Doc Hastings, the outgoing chair, teed up for the committee over the past two years. I also predict an assault on landmark environmental laws including the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act and other federal laws that are the backbone of our stewardship legacy. And Congress will try to slash the budgets of federal land and wildlife management agencies, which could bring wildlife and land conservation to a standstill. 

Americans did not vote for this extreme anti-conservation agenda. Congress is responsible for the stewardship of our country’s natural heritage, not the destruction of it. Your voices will be critical over the next two years.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, President

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