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PNS Daily Newscast - December 12, 2018 


Trump clashes with Democrats and threatens a government shutdown if he doesn’t get his border wall. Also on the Wednesday rundown: lawmakers agree on a $867 billion Farm Bill, plus, a new report finds private Community-Correction Centers failing to rehabilitate.

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Senate Committee Hears Bill to Weaken Endangered Species Act

A judge reinstated the Endangered Species Act listing for the gray wolf in 2014. A new proposal in the U.S. Senate would eliminate such judicial review. (Melissa Smith/Endangered Species Coalition)
A judge reinstated the Endangered Species Act listing for the gray wolf in 2014. A new proposal in the U.S. Senate would eliminate such judicial review. (Melissa Smith/Endangered Species Coalition)
July 18, 2018

LANSING, Mich. - The push to gut the Endangered Species Act continued on Tuesday at a hearing in the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The draft bill, from Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., would give state and local officials more power on species recovery teams, prioritize state scientific analyses over those from the feds or conservation groups, and exempt federal listing decisions from judicial review.

In recent years, said Melissa Smith, Western Great Lakes field representative for the Endangered Species Coalition, many states have sided with industry in arguing against protections for certain species.

"With Barrasso's bill," she said, "we may see that industry takes precedence over restoring species, giving the timber industry and the oil industry, and the extractive industries, preference over wildlife and biodiversity."

Backers of the Barrasso bill have said that in the past, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has sometimes gone against state wishes in listing certain species, and they complain that the ESA encourages lawsuits that tie up projects. Dozens of species in Michigan are endangered, threatened or proposed for listing, including the gray wolf, Canada lynx, Indiana bat, Kirtland's warbler and snowy plover.

Last Thursday, the Western Caucus of the U.S. House introduced a nine-bill package of changes to the ESA. Tara Thornton, a program director for the Endangered Species Coalition, said so-called "poison-pill" riders that undermine the ESA have been included in the House versions of several must-pass spending bills.

"Interior appropriations bills, all kinds of bad riders that would impact the environment and especially the Endangered Species Act," she said. "Even the defense budget has bad Endangered Species Act riders. So, it's incredible that we're seeing this total onslaught of attacks against America's wildlife."

The Farm Bill and the National Defense Authorization Act have passed both houses of Congress and now have to be reconciled in conference committee.

Barrasso's draft legislation is online at epw.senate.gov, and links to the nine-bill package are at westerncaucus.house.gov. The text of the Farm Bill is here, and the text of the defense bill is here.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MI