|May 19, 2005|
|Brad DeVries 202-772-0237|
FORMER FISH & WILDLIFE HEAD WARNS SENATE AGAINST
WEAKENING SPECIES PROTECTION
"The Act's opponents have it exactly backwards. The Endangered Species Act is the alarm bell, not the cause of the emergency," Clark said. "When that alarm sounds, it means we are driving species toward extinction, increasing the risk to the web of life, and therefore to ourselves."
Clark noted that the Endangered Species Act is the nation's primary tool to address the growing extinction crisis that virtually all professional biologists warn has begun. She pointed to a letter to the Subcommittee leadership yesterday from E.O. Wilson of Harvard and nine other prominent scientists that outlined the magnitude of the problem. While mammals get the most attention, everything is affected: fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and plants as well. By Duke University professor Stuart Pimm's count, for example, 11 percent of birds, or 1,100 species out of the world's nearly 10,000, teeter on the edge of extinction; some of these 1,100 are expected not to live far into this century.
"When the nation rejoiced last month at the return of the Ivory-billed woodpecker, Interior Secretary Norton said that we rarely have a second chance to save wildlife from extinction. But the Endangered Species Act is all about first chances to do that, about preventing wildlife extinction now, just in case nature is out of miracles," Clark said.
testified to the Act's tremendous record of stemming the tide of
extinction, while noting a number of things it was never designed to do.
The Endangered Species Act was never intended to prevent species from
becoming threatened or endangered; that is the job of "other conservation
laws" those that protect our water, air, and land. The Endangered Species
She also noted that the Act is still assisting at-risk species, despite pervasive political interference over the past four years with the science and implementation of the Act, and that this interference has devastated morale within the Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Never have I seen so many decisions overturned, so much scientific advice ignored, and so much intrusion into the daily work of rank and file Fish and Wildlife Service professionals as I do today, all by political appointees," she testified. "I worked side-by-side with these dedicated, professional people for many years. I know how much they are struggling, how frustrated they are because they can't do their jobs. They tell me. I talk with these folks and a picture emerges of an agency under siege from within, an agency, created and designed to protect our nation's wildlife heritage, now seemingly more concerned with protecting the interests of those for whom wildlife and habitat are obstacles to be overcome on the way to a bigger bottom line."
a number of areas in which positive improvements could be made to the Act,
so that it can work better for all stakeholders. But she cautioned against
efforts to undermine the Act under the rhetoric of "reform." She noted
moves to destroy the nation's ability to protect habitat for species at
risk, as laid out in a bill last year by Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Cal.), or
Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit conservation organization
recognized as one of the nation's most progressive advocates for wildlife
and its habitat. With more than 480,000 members and supporters, Defenders
of Wildlife is an effective leader on endangered species