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July 30, 2011

House Votes Down "Extinction Rider"

In a victory for imperiled species, the U.S. House of Representatives today voted not to include the "extinction rider" in an appropriations bill that would have stopped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from spending any money to protect new species under the Endangered Species Act or to designate "critical habitat" for their survival.  The House voted 224-202 in favor of an amendment from Rep. Norm Dick's (D-Wash.) to strip the "extinction rider" from the interior department's appropriation bill.

"The extinction rider would have been a disaster for hundreds of animals and plants across the country that desperately need the help of the Endangered Species Act to survive," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).  "The vote is a promising sign for wolverines, walruses, and species in all 50 states that, without help, face the very real prospect of extinction."


The vote comes as plants and animals across the country are at heightened risk of extinction due to habitat destruction, global climate change, extreme weather events and other factors.  Earlier this month the Fish and Wildlife Service and CBD reached a landmark agreement to speed protection for 757 imperiled U.S. species, including the wolverine, Pacific walrus, Rio Grand cutthroat trout and Mexican gray wolf.  The passage of the this bill would have delayed protection of those species and made their recovery more difficult. 

"While the vote on the extinction rider shows that the Endangered Species Act enjoys support from both sides of the aisle, the House is still threatening wide-spread environmental damage with other amendments to this spending bill," Greenwald said.  "We can't allow these measures to move ahead that will pollute our air and water, threaten public health and destroy pristine landscapes."

Mexican gray wolf

Among the measures still under consideration in the House are those that would:
  • Stop more than 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon from being protected from new uranium mines;
  • Force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop all work limiting carbon dioxide pollution from power plants;
  • Halt efforts under the Clean Water Act from protecting human health and endangered species from pesticides;
  • Block EPA oversight of mountain removal coal mining in Appalachia;
  • Interfere with the EPA's work to protect the public from toxic coal ash;
  • Hinder the EPA's and U.S. Corps of Engineers' work to protect wetlands and other waters of the United States;
  • Expedite air-pollution permits for offshore drilling in the Arctic.

The full appropriations bill for the Interior department is expected to be voted on by the House in the coming days.  If it passes, it moves to the Senate.  Last week, the White House signaled plans to veto the spending bill because of amendments that threaten wildlife, the environment, and clean air and water.

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