A Washington congressman has waded into the budget battle over funding for the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency.
One of more than 30 riders tacked onto the House appropriations bill
says no money can be used to add any new endangered species for federal protection in 2012. However, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., is offering an amendment to strike that provision. Marjorie Mulhall, associate legislative counsel for Earthjustice
, says the amendment has bipartisan support and sends a signal that protecting endangered plants and wildlife is still a priority.
"We're not going to stand by while these sort of breathtaking assaults are launched on the Endangered Species Act in an appropriations bill - which is not at all the correct place to be having these sorts of policy decisions made."
Riders on budget bills are one way lawmakers try to move policy issues forward in a Congress that has become too contentious to pass almost anything as a stand-alone bill, Mulhall says. Other riders in the Interior and Environment appropriations bill would weaken the Clean Water Act and keep the EPA from strengthening pesticide and clean-air rules.
Some conservatives are concerned that the costs of federal regulation and enforcement are weighing too heavily on businesses. They see the Endangered Species Act as an example. Meanwhile, Mulhall says, more than 250 species are fighting their own battles - against extinction.
"Right now, there's a long backlog of species that the Fish and Wildlife Service deems need protection because they're highly imperiled. But already, the Fish and Wildlife Service lacks the funds to list those species, in terms of getting Endangered Species Act protections."
The text of HR 2584 is online at democrats.rules.house.gov