With the completion of the Interior-Environment and Commerce-Justice-Science funding bills, the House has approved the key natural resource sections of H.R. 3055, the second minibus of fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills. The Interior Appropriations bill provides an extraordinary $37 million increase for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species program to support recovery efforts for our most vulnerable species. Under current funding levels, many species receive no recovery funding at all. The bill also significantly boosts funding for other crucial programs that conserve wildlife, public lands and habitat.
Additionally, there were positive amendments to the package, including one that would dedicate $1.5 million in research funding to develop technologies to protect the North Atlantic right whale and another to end subsidized roads for fiscally irresponsible logging in the Tongass National Forest. Also, an amendment that would have removed the requirement that any Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil and gas lease sales held by the Trump administration meet revenue projections promised by the 2017 Tax Act failed.
Fortunately, in its consideration of the Commerce-Justice-Science bill, the House overwhelmingly rejected a damaging amendment that would have blocked the National Marine Fisheries Service from moving forward with proposed regulations to implement science-based recommendations to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Robert Dewey, Vice President for Government Relations, Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:
“Our nation’s wildlife is increasingly threatened by habitat loss, climate change and invasive species in what the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services report has now confirmed as our planet’s sixth mass extinction. We haven’t a moment to spare. The House has taken an important step in providing desperately-needed funding for the Endangered Species Act and the wildlife that depends upon it for survival under one of the best Interior Appropriations bills that we have seen in a number of past Congresses.
“Thank you to our House champions for supporting the Endangered Species Act and the wildlife that depend upon it, protecting the Tongass National Forest from destructive road building and old-growth logging and funding research to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, whose number has dwindled to fewer than 420 animals. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge provision failed on the House floor last night. It would have removed text from the Interior bill that would hold the Trump administration accountable for deceiving Americans with inflated and unrealistic promises for Arctic Refuge drilling revenues written into the 2017 Tax Act.”
“Also last night, the House overwhelmingly voted down a rider that would have undermined vital protections for the North Atlantic right whale, one of the planet’s most endangered large whale species. This is a small but critical victory for this imperiled whale.”
“With the Senate yet to develop its versions of these funding bills, Congress must continue to fight for protections of imperiled species, like the North Atlantic right whale, while fully funding the Endangered Species Act to ensure that every species in need of protection gets it and to put every imperiled animal and plant species on the path to recovery.”