Climate change, invasive species, and the Endangered Species Act: My week on the Hill (Part 2)

Last week (now two weeks ago) the USFWS was asked to testify before congress in four hearings, the topics of which included:

1) Climate Change (CC) Adaptation
2) Wildlife Trafficking
3) The Lacey Act
4) The Endangered Species Act (ESA)

Again, all of these hearings are public so I’m not sharing anything that isn’t already out there. The only difference is that I was there (mostly).

1) CC Adaptation

Our first hearing was before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Chaired by Senator Whitehouse (D-RI), the hearing was essentially to reiterate his support (and that of the Democratic party) for the factual views of human-induced CC. While the title suggested there would be a discussion on “adapting” to CC, it quickly fell into attacks on the USFWS director Dan Ashe and John Holdren, PhD, the science adviser to the president. The republicans at the hearing drilled the witnesses on wind energy, questions about EPA regulations (notice neither of the witnesses represented the EPA), how CC affects endangered species listings, and Rep. Sessions (R-AL) even went as far to accuse Holdren of essentially lying to the American people. While nothing was resolved, the hearing may have renewed interests in CC as the Senate held an all-night discussion on the topic just this week. Will we see CC legislation anytime soon? No, but at least it’s on peoples’ radars.

2) Wildlife Trafficking

Held before the —-, this was probably the least contentious of the 4 hearings. No one disagrees that wildlife trafficking is a problem; however, the issue is a pain because of all the agencies that are involved (e.g., us, Dept of State, —-). Basically, trafficking is an issue and the USFWS specifically wants to make ivory illegal in the US. People are concerned about antiques and want special exceptions to be made. The issue is ongoing.

3) The Lacey Act

First, the Lacey Act basically prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, transported or sold (yes that’s Wikipedia definition). Also, it prohibits the transfer of invasive species in many cases which is a much more contentious issue. Over the years amendments have been proposed to the Act the would “soften” it. This time was no different.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs held a legislative hearing on four bills that would amend the Lacey Act to basically weaken it. Four amendments were proposed, two that were specific to plants and not terribly contentious (though not backed), one dealt with water transfers, and the most controversial was (taken from the House Natural Resources website):

To amend the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 to exempt from such Act animals accidentally included in shipments of aquatic species produced in commercial aquaculture, and for other purposes. “Aquaculture Risk Reduction Act”

The argument of the proposers was that there are sever penalties if, for example, one zebra mussel (a popular exotic example) is accidentally included in a shipment of aquaculture fish. This simply isn’t true and the amendment would go far beyond such a situation to weaken the overall Act.

4) The ESA

I’m going to save the ESA hearing for a separate part because this post is already running long and ESA is a hotly contested issue in the gov’t.


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