House Passes Most Environmentally Destructive Defense Authorization Act in History

Riders Condemn Species to Extinction, Give Away Public Lands, Undermine Clean Water Act

Washington, D.C.-(ENEWSPF)- In a partisan vote today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which, if enacted into law, would gut protections for several endangered species, including the American burying beetle and lesser prairie chicken, and remove the Clean Water Act’s ability to control destructive invasive species. The must-pass legislation now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

“Republicans know that the overwhelming majority of Americans support the Endangered Species Act and our public lands, so they use ‘military readiness’ as a shield to advance their extreme agenda,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The deep antipathy they’re demonstrating toward endangered species is sad and disgraceful.”

The House bill would permanently end all federal protections for the American burying beetle and lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act. Other provisions of the bill would undo 5-year, landscape-level planning efforts to protect the greater sage grouse, transfer 800,000 acres of national wildlife refuge lands to the U.S. Air Force, transfer thousands of miles of right-of-ways in sensitive habitats to the state of Utah to facilitate oil, gas and coal extraction, and create a huge loophole in the Clean Water Act that would limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The best available science continues to demonstrate that the American burying beetle is highly endangered. The beetle has declined by more than 90 percent and is ranked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “critically endangered.” Captive-breeding and reintroduction efforts increased the total number of populations from just two in 1989 to more than 20 by 2011, but the species is still missing from most of its historic range. Since the beetle was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1989, the military has been one of its best stewards. The largest known population of the burying beetle is found on Camp Gruber in Oklahoma. Another large burying beetle population is found on Oklahoma’s McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, which was awarded the Department of Defense’s “best resource conservation program” in 2013 for its efforts to save the beetle. The House-passed bill would undo 20 years of conservation gains in rescuing the species from extinction.

“The U.S. military has been one of our nation’s best stewards of endangered species over the past 40 years, but today’s bill would pointlessly undermine its important conservation achievements,” said Hartl. “The military understands that preserving our natural heritage for future generations is a critical part of protecting our way of life.”

Another dangerous provision of the bill, Section 3601, would remove the EPA’s ability to regulate ballast water discharges under the Clean Water Act. The bill transfers all authority to regulate ballast water discharges to the U.S. Coast Guard and exempts ballast-water discharges from the requirements of the Clean Water Act. The spread of non-native, aquatic invasive species has damaged marine and freshwater ecosystems across the country and has caused or contributed to the decline of dozens of endangered species. Aquatic invasive species cost federal, state, and local governments billions of dollars annually through damage to infrastructure for public water supplies. If the bill is enacted into law, sensitive freshwater ecosystems like the Great Lakes, Bay Delta, Puget Sound and Everglades would increasingly be degraded by the spread of invasive species; restoration of these ecosystems would become much more costly.

“It’s never been more obvious that House Republicans are willing to sacrifice our environment and any plant or animal that gets in the way of industry’s short-term profits,” said Hartl.

The Obama administration has threatened to veto the House’s bill.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.