In the People's Interest

Public Lands and Endangered Species


Attempts to undermine ESA put our future at risk
I recently met virtually with staff members from the offices of Sen. Steve Daines and Sen. Jon Tester to discuss concerns over recent proposals from the Trump administration to weaken the Endangered Species Act. As we face this global pandemic, it may seem like the least of our worries to protect animals and their habitat, and yet it’s more important than ever that we pay close
attention to the links between ecological degradation and our vulnerability to this virus.
Scientists have been warning us for years that when we invade wild landscapes and disrupt ecosystems, this creates opportunities for zoonotic viruses, such as COVID-19 to spill over into humans. If we don’t recognize these links, pandemics like this will continue with even greater consequences.
We had three specific asks for our senators:
1. We asked that both senators use their position on the Appropriations Committee to advocate for increased funding for the Endangered Species Act.
2. To oppose the inclusion of the antiESA sage-grouse rider.
3. To support the PAW and FIN Conservation Act (S.2491).
We were grateful that both the offices of Daines and Tester were able to hear our concerns. Henry Ring, from Tester’s office, reassured us that Tester would continue to be a strong supporter of our
wildlife and public lands and was sympathetic to our concerns over protections for sage grouse. We hope to have firm support from Tester to oppose the anti-ESA, sage-grouse rider.
Now, as we face climate change, the sixth mass extinction and a global pandemic, any attempts to undermine the ESA are a slap in the face of our future. I’m grateful to Defenders of Wildlife for
helping organize these meetings and I urge anyone who shares these concerns to contact their representatives and show your support for the ESA.
Mariah Palmer
Our public lands need to be protected, not plundered
USDA Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue was in Missoula June 12 posing with Greg Gianforte and others and pushing his agenda to further exploit public lands. His “memorandum” calls for streamlining of environmental review, expediting logging for “forest health,” increasing access to public land, prioritizing grazing on national grasslands and pushing for even more oil and gas development. Of course, Sen. Daines is supporting this approach too.
The Forest Service keeps getting sued and their projects get stopped in court because they break the law all the time. So here’s Perdue’s solution, instead of following the law, let’s streamline the
process (meaning undermine environmental laws) and place more pressure
on already stressed federal employees to hurry up and pillage public forests, minerals and grasslands, all while ignoring the social and environmental costs of such a pushy approach.
We have seen this before, from every administration, acting as if public lands are the Horn of Plenty that can do everything. But no one is making more land, and our federal forests and grasslands need to be left alone rather than further plundered. Perdue’s memo is desperate and meaningless posturing from a failing administration.
Phil Knight

Bozeman Daily Chronicle Letters to the Editor 6/23/20

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