The House Committee on Natural Resources will debate five bills related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on Wednesday. Though these bills are couched in reasonable sounding phrases and catchy acronyms, promising to make the Endangered Species Act better, make no mistake: these bills are an attack on the ESA.
The bill known as the SAVES Act, H.R. 2603, is particularly dangerous, made more so by its deception. At first glance, the bill seems to be beneficial to endangered species in the United States. Its purpose is “To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide that nonnative species in the United States shall not be treated as endangered species or threatened species for purposes of that Act.”
It’s a reasonable sounding suggestion. After all, why should we be concerned about non-native species? We have enough work just to protect our native species.
However, removing protections for non-native species means removing protections for animals ranging from African elephants to the Green Macaw. This means that a company like Feld Entertainment would no longer need a permit from Fish & Wildlife to ship endangered big cats to circuses in Europe, and wealthy hunters can import skins from freshly killed leopards.
As US Fish & Wildlife Services notes:
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires the Service to list species as endangered or threatened regardless of which country the species lives in. Benefits to the species include prohibitions on certain activities including import, export, take, commercial activity, interstate commerce, and foreign commerce. By regulating activities, the United States ensures that people under the jurisdiction of the United States do not contribute to the further decline of listed species. Although the ESA’s prohibitions regarding listed species apply only to people subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S., the ESA can generate conservation benefits such as increased awareness of listed species, research efforts to address conservation needs, or funding for in-situ conservation of the species in its range countries. The ESA also provides for limited financial assistance to develop and manage programs to conserve listed species in foreign countries, encourages conservation programs for such species, and allows for assistance for programs, such as personnel and training. (emph. added)
People in the United States have been responsible for the decimation of species all over the world. Removing non-native species from the ESA would remove the ability to hold Americans accountable for our actions. It would rapidly increase the risk to any number of endangered species.
Implying that removing non-native species from the ESA is a ‘positive’ action for endangered species is a lie. The SAVES Act is a lie.