Two Republican Senators apparently dislike prairie dogs – native to the US, and Utah in particular – so much that they're preparing to remove protection from 1,097 other species just so they can remove theirs.
Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee proposed a bill this week to strip Endangered Species status from 1,098 intrastate animals and plants – those only found in one state.
It seems embarrassingly obvious to point out that if a species is only found in one place that makes it more endangered, not less. In fact, the majority of the 1,655 species currently listed under the Endangered Species Act in the US are intrastate species.
The new bill, ironically named the “Native Species Protection Act”, is backed by those who want to remove protection from the prairie dog. Unfortunately, if the bill goes through it will remove protection from nearly 500 species in Hawaii, 230 in California, nearly 90 in Florida, and 20 more in Utah.
"Utah's senators hate their prairie dogs so much they're willing to destroy most of America's endangered wildlife to wipe out this little animal," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement.
This legislation follows five previous rejections by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to remove protection from the prairie dog, lobbied by private landowners who claimed it was unlawful for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to regulate the removal of protected species from private land.
The last rejection was earlier this year when a Republican-appointed judge said removing protections of intrastate species would “leave a gaping hole” and “undercut the conservation purposes” of the Endangered Species Act.
“Republicans continue to demonstrate that their calls to reform the Endangered Species Act are completely hollow,” said Hartl. “Instead of proposing ideas that help recover our most vulnerable wildlife, they’re eager to let America’s iconic animals go extinct.”
Fun fact: the Endangered Species Act was signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1973. We're not sure this was the legacy he envisaged.