Environmental War Crimes – Part 4 – Life

On Monday,  we started our multi-point breakdown of a singularly destructive bill – HR 3354, a legislative monster of an appropriations act, whose length and complexity hides gifts, in the form of riders, for industries and anti-environmental extremists.  In Parts 1 and 2, we listed those that pose a clear threat to our health and that of our families by the removal or lessening of protections for our air and water. In Part 3, we spotlighted the ones that are focused on taking or abusing our public lands for private financial gain or on hindering their proper management.

Environmental War Crimes – Part 1 – Air
Environmental War Crimes – Part 2 – Water
Environmental War Crimes – Part 3 – Land

Although these earlier columns discuss the H.R. 3354 riders that will cause harm to wildlife as well as to humans as a side effect of their implementation, today’s column will focus on those that specifically target wildlife and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Why are GOP legislators so cavalier with our wildlife? 

Maybe they feel that wildlife, unlike cattle, oil and lumber, has no commercial value?

They are wrong.

  • In 2016, more than 101 million Americans – a staggering 40 percent of the U.S. population – participated in some form of fishing, hunting or other wildlife-associated recreation such as birdwatching or outdoor photography, spending  an estimated $156.3 billion on equipment, travel, licenses and fees.
  • In 2016, bird watchers spent nearly $41 billion annually on trips and equipment. Local community economies benefit from the $14.9 billion that birdwatchers spend on food, lodging and transportation. In 2011, 666,000 jobs were created as a result of birdwatching expenditures.
  • More than 25% of the medicinal prescriptions given every year contain chemicals from animals, including venom from the pit viper to cure the symptoms of Melanoma, and the venom from a tarantula can help fight neurological disorders. Here’s more. Any animal can become the next big scientific breakthrough. Unless they’re extinct.
  • New information is being collected constantly about the importance of even the smallest or  weirdest of creatures. Whole ecosystems depend on animals we may not think about.
  • Birds have been estimated to consume 98 percent of certain insect pests, including codling moths, enhancing agricultural production.
  • Predators are key to an ecosystem’s survival.

This sneak attack on our wildlife is happening through this appropriations bill. Stop it. – Call to action:

Action: Make these calls, and just as importantly, share this with friends and family that live in GOP-dominated states and ask them to call their legislators. EVEN IF YOU’VE MADE THIS CALL, MAKE IT AGAIN. Pile them on. Make our legislators concentrate on the horrendous details parked in this bill.

Minimal Script #1: I’m calling from [zip code] and I’m asking Sen. [___] to reject HR 3354, and come back with a clean appropriations act with both the removal of all anti-environmental riders and the restoration of full funding to match fiscal year 2016.

Contact your Legislator

Senator Feinstein: DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Other Rep./Senator Contacts: www.phoneyourrep.com

Background Information on HR 3354 wildlife issues – go as deep as you want. 

Thanks to defenders.org for their amazing compilation. More to come.

These items, from #1-14,  are the perverse easter eggs hidden in HR. 3354, just on wildlife issues. We’ll be doing toxins tomorrow.

Grouse Issues

Why is it so important to save these birds? Look here, or here or here for articles.

#1 – Imperils Sage Grouse

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title I – General Provisions, Department of the Interior, Sec. 113
  • Senate Chairman’s Mark, Title I-General Provisions, Section 114

Sec. 113/114: Prohibits the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from conducting a new status review for the imperiled greater sage-grouse or Columbia basin sage-grouse for at least another year. In September 2015, FWS determined that the greater sage-grouse was not warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act, and withdrew the species from the candidate species list. FWS cited unprecedented, landscape-scale cooperation on conservation efforts as reducing threats to sage grouse. However, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has initiated a process that will likely result in the severe weakening of the National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy. Sage-grouse populations are continuing to decline. Given the new administration’s effort to undermine the Planning Strategy, the ability to protect sage-grouse under the ESA is more crucial than ever.

#2 – Blocks protections for the Lesser Prairie Chicken (another form of grouse).

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (Senate Chairmen’s Mark) Title I – General Provisions, Department of the Interior, Sec. 121

Sec. 121: Blocks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from taking any steps to list the lesser prairie chicken under the ESA. First petitioned for listing in 1995, the bird was listed as threatened in April 2014, but the listing was overturned by the U.S. District Court for Texas in September 2015. The bird has lost more than 80 percent of its traditional habitat due to human activities such as oil and gas drilling, ranching and construction of power lines and wind turbines. Its population declined by more than half just between 2012 and 2013. FWS is still evaluating whether the bird needs to be re-proposed for listing based on current conservation efforts and new data and the agency should be free to make that determination based on scientific information, not political considerations.

Wolf Issues

Why is it so important to protect wolves?

Wolves have economic as well as environmental benefits. Read here.

#3 – Imperils Gray Wolves by “delisting them in Wyoming and the Great Lakes

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title I – General Provisions, Department of the Interior, Sec. 116
  • Senate Chairman’s Mark, Title I-General Provisions, Section 120

Sec. 116/120: Overrides a unanimous D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision issued on August 1, 2017 and removes existing federal protections for wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. It would also codify a recent D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that stripped ESA protections for wolves in Wyoming. Finally, the rider would prevent judicial review of these wolf delistings, thus furthering this GOP-dominated Congress’ campaign to stealthily undermine our rights to seek out justice and defend our civil rights, public health, and environment.

#4 – Imperils Wolves in the Continental US by blocking Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection.

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title I – General Provisions, Department of the Interior, Sec. 117

Sec. 117: Blocks federal funding for the endangered gray wolf throughout the continental United States. The gray wolf is currently listed as endangered in most of the lower-48 states. While the return of gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes has been an incredible success story, this iconic American species still only occupies a small portion of its former range and wolves have only just started to re-enter areas like northern California, where there are large swaths of suitable habitat. This rider would reverse the incredible progress that the ESA has achieved for this species over the past few decades and could once again put the gray wolf at risk of extinction.

#5 – Debates the classification of Mexican and Red wolves.

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions, In House Interior Appropriations Commnittee Report (House Report 115-238)

5) Directs the Fish and Wildlife Service to review and determine whether the Mexican gray wolf is a genetically valid subspecies and whether the red wolf is a genetically valid species and report to Congress within a year. The Service already went through an exhaustive study when the determination was made that the Mexican gray wolf should be listed as a subspecies and they are already reviewing the taxonomy of the red wolf. At this time, the best available,science upports genetic/taxonomic distinction for the red wolf, and thus the species continues to warrant protection.

#6 – Urging “Extinction” declaration for red wolves.

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions, In Senate Interior Appropriations Committee Explanatory Statement.

2) Encourages the FWS to grant the request the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to end the red wolf recovery program in FY 18 and declare the red wolf extinct. Congress should not be intervening in decision-making by expert federal wildlife biologists under the ESA. Those decisions should be based on the best available science, as directed under the ESA. The red wolf recovery program has been incredibly effective and a model for endangered species protection nationwide, including the very successful gray wolf reintroduction in the West.

Giving up on Red Wolves: A rider in the Senate Interior Appropriations Report committee report (Committee Report Pg. 17) encourages the Fish and Wildlife Service to end the Red Wolf recovery program and to declare the Red Wolf extinct. In expressing views about the status of the Red Wolf, this rider undermines the scientific and legal process established to protect and recover imperiled species.

Don’t forget these other Animals

#7 – Lion, tigers and bears!  This rider encourages inhumane “predator control” practices 


  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions, Sec. 454 Rep. Don Young (R-AK)

Sec. 454: This provision from prime dick Rep. Young of Alaska would block implementation of rules regulation non-subsistence hunting on national preserves. Currently the National Park Service does NOT allow aggressive, scientifically indefensible “predator control” sport-hunting practices such as spotlighting denning bears and cubs as they hibernate, (For god’s sakes! where does the word “sport” come into this?) The agency arrived at their regulations through an open, public process in 2015 and the technical advice of wildlife managers and Rep. Young’s terrible rider will set back efforts to clarify appropriate National Park Service jurisdiction.

#8 – Blocks ESA protections for numerous species

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions, Sec. 458 Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)

Sec. 458: Blocks federal funding for a protected species any time the FWS fails to meet its obligation to complete a five-year review of the species’ status as required by the ESA, which would devastate conservaion and recovery efforts for listed species. The agencies are often prevented from completing these reviews on time due to lack of funding or competing priorities. This provision would leave nearly 1,000 species currently awaiting five-year reviews in a state of limbo, because they would retain their ESA status, but it would block all federal funding for recovery efforts, law enforcement efforts, and consultations.

#9 – Blocks ESA protections for Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse.

Read here.

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions, Sec. 459 Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)

Sec. 459: Blocks federal funding for the threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse under the ESA, thwarting recovery efforts for this western species. The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse continues to experience habitat loss and face other threats throughout its range. This provision would eliminate crucial recovery programs for the mouse that require federal funding, such as Habitat Conservation Plans, and create uncertainty for stakeholders as to whether projects can go forward without violating the ESA.

#10 – Exempts sea urchins,and sea cucumbers from existing export licensing requirements.

Hey, weren’t we just talking about how important sea cucumber poop was?

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions, Sec. 445 

Sec. 445 – Exempt thousands of species of echinoderms, commonly known as sea urchins and sea cucumbers, from existing export licensing requirements under Section 9(d)(1) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), unless the species is already protected under the ESA, the Lacey Act, or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It would prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from enforcing Section 9(d)(1) of the ESA or compiling wildlife trade data such as exports or transshipments with respect to these species for at least a year. This exemption impacts the conservation of numerous imperiled marine species and obstructs efforts to prevent wildlife trafficking and illegal trade.

Vultures and/or Humans – Why they Matter – Toxins in our environment

Get a new cup of coffee and settle down for a rant here.

#11 – Exempts lead bullets and fishing tackle from regulation under the Toxis Substances Control Act.


  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions, Sec. 420
  • Senate Chairmen’s Mark –  Title IV – General Provisions, Sec. 419

Sec. 420/419: Prohibits the EPA and all federal land management agencies from regulating the use of lead in ammunition, ammunition components and fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act or any other law.

Why is this to important to someone who doesn’t give a fig about wildlife? 

Because it’s poisoning us too. 

In 1991, the federal government banned the use of lead shot for all waterfowl hunting not just because of the extensive scientific evidence that lead shot was poisoning millions of ducks, geese, and swans each year, but because it was also affecting human health as well. Today, spent ammunition represents one of the largest sources for lead pollution in our environment. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an orderoverturning a ban on using lead ammunition on wildlife refuges on his first day in office. And now the GOP, ignoring every scientific warning and the availablity of safer non-lead options that are  effective and cost-competitive, is using this backdoor method to spread lead contamination everywhere.


Let’s talk about the human consequences of using lead ammunition:

  • A 2009 study of North Dakotans, CDC and the North Dakota Department of Health, found that as wild game consumption increased, so did blood lead levels, affecting hunting families and low-income families receiving donate meat from food pantries. Although the difference was not high in adult subjects at 1.27 micrograms per deciliter, children naturally absorb more lead and the CDC has warned that there is no safe level of lead in the blood of children.
  • Evidence is also emerging of lead’s role in reproductive disorders, kidney disease, cognitive decline and neurological problems. Studies hint that chronic blood lead levels as low as 2 micrograms per deciliter may increase the risk of death from a heart attack or stroke. Evidence is also emerging of lead’s role in reproductive disorders, kidney disease, cognitive decline and neurological problems. Studies published in 2009 and 2016 suggest that lead exposure from shooting may decrease verbal memory and increase the frequency of neuropsychiatric symptoms. Lead is damaging, in part, because it mimics the calcium essential in maintaining healthy bones, nerve cells and blood pressure and can effect fetuses, through the calcium naturally released from a pregnant woman’s bones to nourish her growing fetus.
  • In addition to potential exposure from eating contaminated meat, workers and customers at a shooting range may inhale, ingest or absorb lead while loading ammunition, shooting, retrieving spent bullets and cleaning guns. The U.S. is home to more than 2,500 ranges and, every year, at least 20 million Americans participate in recreational shooting, according to the NSSF. Reports suggest the figure is increasing, with shooting growing in popularity among women and children. Between 2001 and 2013, the number of women target shooters rose from 3.3 million to 5.4 million, according to the NSSF. Meanwhile, the firearms industry has targeted children in an effort to ensure the future of shooting sports, according to a 2013 analysis by The New York Times and a 2016 study by the Violence Policy Center. Some ranges even offer birthday party packages.
  • “Inhaling lead particles at a shooting range can raise a person’s blood lead levels very quickly.” Depending on the type of gun used, the heavy metal can be released through the fragmentation or vaporization of the bullet and from the lead used as the primer or propellant. Experts agree that these risks can be controlled with proper ventilation along with personal precautions. However, sometimes things go wrong

Who had stopped using lead ammunition?:

  • The U.S. Department of Defense stated that while it has fully converted 5.56-millimeter war reserve cartridges (fired from the M16 rifle) to lead-free, their training rounds remain a mix of lead and non-lead. “The U.S. Army operations office (G-3) is tracking that and ensuring there is a timeline and flow that allows us to transition as soon as feasible,” the DoD said in a statement.

Why should hunters stop using lead ammunition?

Banner_TraditionalAlt“If non-lead ammunition is good enough for the U.S. military, with all their ballistics and performance testing, it should be good enough for hunters,” George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy, said in a statement.


Other hunting groups are actively encouraging their fellow hunters to consider using green bullets, which are usually made of copper or copper alloys. A group of avid sportsmen has developed a website, HuntingWithNonLead.org, which espouses the virtues of non-lead ammo. Check out their FAQ sheet here.

“The idea of accidentally poisoning other non-target wildlife isn’t anyone’s intention,” the group states on their website. “But many birds and mammals feed on the … carcasses that they find during and after hunting season. In many cases, these animals unknowingly eat lead when the carcasses have been shot with lead ammo.”

OK, let’s work our way back to animals. Specically vultures/condors, although this is killing millions of other animals every year.

Lead poisoning is a continuing threat to vultures , including our California Condor

Our condor and other vultures around the world are in danger of disappearing, due to poisoning from the lead ammunition residue left in the carrion they consume. And according to a new report from University of Utah biologists, such a loss would have serious consequences for ecosystems and human populations alike.

Vultures are highly efficient consumers of carrion, sometimes locating and consuming carcasses within an hour, before other forms of decay can set in. And vultures’ stomachs are highly acidic, killing nearly all bacteria or viruses that may be present in carrion, such as anthrax, cholera, botulinum toxin, and rabies that would be lethal to other scavengers. Combined with the fact that vultures rarely come in contact with humans, vultures serve as a barrier to prevent diseases from proliferating in dead animals and spreading to humans. Other scavengers, like rats and dogs, are not so adapted, and could pass along those diseases into human populations, as many are already fixtures in cities. However, their digestive anomalies leave them particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning.

Messing with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) itself

#12 – Allows states to mess with ESA decisions

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions, In House Interior Appropriations Commnittee Report (House Report 115-238)

2) Pressures the Fish and Wildlife Service to allow states significant leverage in ESA decisions and implementation. The agency already fully follows the direction in the ESA “cooperate to the maximum extent practicable with the states,” yet the language incorrectly states that failures to cooperate with the states have engendered much of the controversy surrounding the ESA.

#13 – Inappropriately exempts areas fron ESA Critical Habitat

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions, In House Interior Appropriations Commnittee Report (House Report 115-238)

3) Directs the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to exclude flood control areas from critical habitat designation under the Endangered Species Act such as for the Western distinct population segment of the yellow-billed cuckoo. The language is counter to the requirement in the ESA to designate critical habitat for listed species.

#14 – Urges disproportionate consideration of non-regulatory conservation actions

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions, In House Interior Appropriations Commnittee Report (House Report 115-238)

3) The report states that the Fish and Wildlife Service does not adequately include non- regulatory conservation actions when making listing decisions under the ESA and that the Committee expects FWS to work with states to develop a more reasonable policy. FWS already does this under their Policy for the Evaluation of Conservation Efforts for Making Listing Decisions (PECE) which contains guidance for whether or not Service must consider voluntary conservation measures adopted by states and private entities.







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