GOP Seeks Changes to Species Law After Grizzly Hunts Halted - NBC4 Washington
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

GOP Seeks Changes to Species Law After Grizzly Hunts Halted

Momentum for change to the 1973 act has been building since President Donald Trump took office last year

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    GOP Seeks Changes to Species Law After Grizzly Hunts Halted
    AP Photo/Jim Urquhart, File
    In this July 6, 2011, file photo, a grizzly bear roams near Beaver Lake in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.

    Galvanized by court rulings protecting grizzly bears and gray wolves, Congressional Republicans on Wednesday launched a push for sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act despite strong objections from Democrats and wildlife advocates who called the effort a "wildlife extinction package."

    Republicans began with a morning vote in the House Natural Resource Committee to strip protections from wolves across the contiguous U.S.

    Courts restored safeguards for wolves in the Great Lakes region in 2014, frustrating states that had been allowing hunts to control wolf populations.

    Later Wednesday, lawmakers took up changes to the endangered species law itself with a suite of bills that critics labeled a "wildlife extinction package."

    Trump Doesn't See White Nationalism as a Rising Threat

    [NATL] Trump Doesn't See White Nationalism as a Rising Threat

    President Donald Trump on Friday declined to join expressions of concern about white nationalism, saying "I don't, really" when asked whether he thought it was a rising threat around the world.

    (Published Friday, March 15, 2019)

    Momentum for change to the 1973 act has been building since President Donald Trump took office last year. Adding impetus to the effort was a court ruling Monday in Montana that restored protections for grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park, putting on hold grizzly hunts that had been planned in Wyoming and Idaho.

    "This ruling in Montana to me is the prime example of why Congress should modernize the Endangered Species Act," said Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican. "The grizzly bear has been fully recovered for 10 years. Even the Obama administration said so."

    Barrasso said he prefers broad changes to the act rather than legislation on individual species. He's drafted legislation that includes a provision to block courts from intervening in decisions to lift protections for five years after those decisions are made.

    Other Republican proposals would speed up the process deciding if species need protections, provide conservation incentives to landowners and give state, local and tribal governments more power in species decisions.

    The hunts in Wyoming and Idaho would have been the first allowing members of the public with licenses to shoot bears in the contiguous U.S. since the 1990s. Alaska has had public grizzly bear hunting during that period.

    Whether the GOP proposals ultimately succeed could hinge on who controls Congress next year. Barrasso said he does not expect the Senate to act on pending proposals to overhaul the act until after the November midterm election.

    CAIR Leader Calls for Trump to More Clearly Condemn Anti-Muslim Terrorism

    [NATL] CAIR Leader Calls for Trump to More Clearly Condemn Anti-Muslim Terrorism

    Niwad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, responded Friday to the terrorist attacks on mosques in New Zealand. He called on President Donald Trump to “condemn this, not only as a hate crime, but as a white supremacist terrorist attack.”

    (Published Friday, March 15, 2019)

    The ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva said the measure to strip protections for wolves marked "an all-out assault on the species."

    He said a provision of the bill blocking lawsuits from wildlife advocates who would seek to restore protections could set a dangerous precedent, by making the government unaccountable in court for its actions.

    Grijalva added that the broader Republican proposals to change the endangered act comprised a "wish list" for industries that see the law as a barrier to development.

    Federal protections for wolves and bears are a sore spot in many rural communities where the predators frequently are blamed in livestock attacks. Both species were nearly exterminated in the early 20th century.

    They've rebounded in some areas since passage of the Endangered Species Act, a 1973 law meant to shield plants and animals from potential extinction.

    Wolves in the Northern Rockies are not federally-protected and are subject to hunting.

    Beto O’Rourke Talks to NBC 5 About Presidential Run

    [NATL-DFW] Beto O’Rourke Talks to NBC 5 About Presidential Run

    Beto O'Rourke is officially joining the 2020 race for the White House. After months of speculation, he announced his decision Thursday morning.

    (Published Thursday, March 14, 2019)

    On grizzly bears, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney wants Congress to reverse U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen's ruling, which returned bruins in and around Yellowstone National Park to the threatened species list after they were removed last year.

    The judge faulted federal wildlife officials for not giving enough consideration to bear populations that continue to struggle elsewhere in the Northern Rockies.

    A spokeswoman for Cheney, Maddy Weast, said the lawmaker was looking for the best way to advance the measure. The grizzly hunts planned in Wyoming and Idaho this fall would have allowed up to 23 of the animals to be killed.

    Supporters said that could have helped address rising numbers of grizzly-human conflicts. Bears frequently attack livestock and occasionally people, including a Wyoming hunting guide killed by a pair of grizzlies earlier this month outside Grand Teton National Park.

    Defenders of Wildlife attorney Jason Rylander acknowledged grizzly bears and wolves have become a flashpoint for dispute, but said politics should not decide any species' fate.

    "In both the cases of grizzly bears and wolves, work on recovering them in the Lower 48 is not complete," Rylander said. "We have to decide if we're willing as a nation to recover them beyond the pockets where they have been resurgent."

    Beto O'Rourke Holds First Campaign Rally for 2020

    [NATL] Beto O'Rourke Holds First Campaign Rally for 2020

    Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke hit the campaign trail with his first stop at a coffeeshop in Keokuk, Iowa, the morning he announced his bid for the Oval Office. 

    (Published Thursday, March 14, 2019)

    Under Trump, the U.S. Interior and Commerce departments have proposed administrative changes to the species law that would end automatic protections for threatened plants and animals and set limits on designating habitat as crucial to recovery.

    Attorneys general from 10 states Tuesday demanded that the administration abandon the proposals in a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

    Jonathan Wood with the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, said Monday's court ruling on grizzlies had amplified "the political appeal" for changes to the law that he said were needed.

    "The Obama administration had no more luck getting the gray wolf or grizzly delisted (from federal protections) than the Bush administration did. This is a consistent problem," Wood said.