WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden has vetoed Republican-sponsored bills to remove federal protections for two endangered species that have seen their populations plummet for years: the lesser prairie chicken and northern long-eared bat.
The two GOP measures would overturn “science-based lawmaking” that offers important protections for previously abundant species and harm the Endangered Species Act, Biden said.
“The lesser prairie-chicken serves as an indicator for healthy grasslands and grasslands, making the species an important measure of the overall health of America’s grasslands,” the White House wrote Tuesday in a statement. veto on the prairie bird. It is a member of the grouse family found in parts of the Midwest and Southwest, including the oil-rich Permian Basin of New Mexico and Texas. The bird’s range also extends to in parts of Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
Environmentalists have long sought stronger federal protections for the prairie bird, which they consider critically endangered due to oil and gas development, livestock grazing and farming, along with roads and lines. of electricity. The crow-sized, terrestrial birds are known for spring courtship rituals that include graceful dances by the males as they make a cacophony of clucking, cackling and booming sounds.
The long-eared bat is one of the 12 species of bats that have been wiped out by a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome. The disease has spread to nearly 80% of the bat’s historic range in the eastern and north-central United States and has caused an estimated population decline of at least 97%.
“Bats are critical to healthy, functioning ecosystems and contribute at least $3 billion annually to the United States agricultural economy through pest control and pollination,” Biden said in a separate veto statement. He said the GOP bill would “damage America’s proud wildlife conservation traditions and risk species extinction.”
The two bills approved by Congress are supported mostly by Republicans and represent significant congressional involvement in matters normally left to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Endangered Species Act tasks executive agencies with deciding which animals and plants to list as endangered or threatened and how to rebuild their populations.
Republicans say the protections for the lesser prairie chicken will disrupt US oil and gas production and endanger thousands of American jobs.
Designating the bird as an endangered species “is another attack on cheap energy for American taxpayers,” said Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “This is an attack on American jobs and it makes us more dependent” on hostile countries in the Middle East and South America, he said.
Republicans and the logging industry have also criticized the endangered listing for the long-eared bat, arguing that it interferes with logging and other land uses that are not responsible for the bat’s drastic decline. The bat is found in 37 eastern and north-central states, Washington, DC, and most of Canada.
The American Loggers Council, an industry group, said in a statement that changing the bat’s status from “threatened” to endangered “does nothing to reduce bat mortality, but contributes to declining numbers of loggers in the US and threatening the forest products industry.”
Citing criteria used by the Fish and Wildlife Service, “the American logger should be considered for listing as threatened or endangered and given the same protection,” the group said.
Environmental groups praised Biden’s actions.
The veto of the lesser-prairie chicken scale puts the bird “on a more definite path to recovery,” said Michael Parr, president of the American Bird Conservancy. “Current populations are believed to average 32,000 birds. Every concerted effort is needed to ensure a safer future for this iconic species.”
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, said conservationists are grateful for Biden’s actions “but remain deeply concerned that his veto is the only thing standing between the wildly misguided, anti-wildlife members of Congress and the future of wildlife. The American public, regardless of party affiliation, overwhelmingly supports the Endangered Species Act and believes it should be fully funded to protect species from of extinction. The Congress must wake up to this fact and stop their continuous attacks.”
Joe Manchin of West Virginia is the only Democratic senator who supports repealing protections for the lesser prairie chicken, while Manchin and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., voted unanimously with Republicans to remove protections for the long-eared bat.