WASHINGTON (October 5, 2017) – WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs John Calvelli issued the following statement on the passage of several bills that would weaken the Endangered Species Act through the House Natural Resources Committee:

“The Endangered Species Act remains the U.S. government’s best hope to save species from extinction, especially as it relates to international conservation and combating wildlife trafficking. New harmful efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives would greatly diminish the law, spelling disaster for many species.

“Currently proposed legislation would allow economic factors to be used to dismiss any future effort to list species under the ESA. This is misguided and short-sighted; in order to save the world’s biodiversity, it is critical that only the best available science and data be used. This bill, if passed, would undercut the entire premise of the ESA, which ensures the continued survival of many species that would perish due to multiple threats, including if the free market did not deem them ‘economically valuable.’

“Even more egregious is a proposed bill that would no longer allow foreign species to be covered by the ESA. This would eliminate a key tool in the fight against wildlife crime by removing the underlying law that has been used by federal law enforcement in several recent successful investigations and prosecutions of criminals caught trafficking in rhino horn, ivory, tiger pelts, and other illegal wildlife products.

“A dangerous result of excluding foreign species from the ESA would be the elimination of the landmark U.S. federal ivory ban, put in place last year after an exhaustive consultation with all parties.  Passage of this pending legislation would, once again, enable ivory to be sold across the United States. This would be disastrous for elephants as well as U.S. national security, as evidence has shown that the transnational organized criminal networks that traffic in African elephant ivory often traffic in other illegal commodities, like weapons, drugs and humans, and drive corruption and instability across Africa, and even in some cases have connections with extremist groups that have been connected to terrorism and human rights violations.

“The ESA is a historically bipartisan law (signed by President Nixon, and strongly supported by all administrations since) that has resulted in many success stories for endangered wildlife, both within and outside our borders. Undermining the ESA would not only be an abdication of generations of U.S. leadership and bipartisan agreement on endangered species, but also undoubtedly contribute to the extinction of many unique species of wildlife worldwide. The Wildlife Conservation Society strongly urges Congress to reject these harmful bills and asks citizens to let their Congressional representatives know that wildlife conservation and the Endangered Species Act are critically important.”