by Tim Manns
Audubon Washington’s Legislative Priorities
The Washington State Legislature begins a fast and furious sixty-day session January 8th. Fewer bills will pass than in the alternate-year long session, and the two-year budget will be merely tweaked. Audubon Washington’s priorities include ensuring the landmark Climate Commitment Act is neither weakened nor repealed and continues to direct investment towards climate mitigation and adaptation. The 2021 act caps the greenhouse gas contributions of the state’s highest emitters and invests subsequent revenues in cutting carbon pollution. Audubon needs our chapter’s support on this, on efforts to conserve and restore coastal areas, and more. Twenty-six organizations plus Audubon comprise the Environmental Priorities Coalition, whose several priorities also need our voice. Please read this brief summary: 2024_audubon_legislative_priorities_one_pager_12.2023_2.pdf and sign up to receive Audubon Washington action alerts (Take Action and Advocate Effectively | Audubon Washington).
A Very Happy Birthday - the Endangered Species Act at Fifty
Dan Flores’ Wild New World – The Epic Story of Animals & People in America lays out the long and disturbing story of the wanton destruction of wildlife in the United States. The Passenger Pigeon, once Earth’s most numerous bird, completely wiped out. The Carolina Parakeet, North America’s only native breeding parrot, also gone plus seven other bird species. Millions upon millions of bison and other mammals reduced to near extinction. Unbridled shooting and profit-taking eliminated an abundance of which we can only dream. And then gradually in the last century came an awakening to what we had done. At last, on December 28th fifty years ago, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was signed after passing the Senate 92-0 and the House 390-12. Flores writes, “.. for the priceless genetic legacy of wild species that evolved in North America’s deep time and existed here in health long before we ever arrived … surely the Endangered Species Act of 1973 is America at its best.” The Supreme Court later called the act “the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species ever enacted by any nation.” The ESA acknowledges the moral and ethical obligation we have to the other-than-human world. It acknowledges that we humans should restrain our impulses at least enough to let other species survive.
Every day in the Skagit we see this act’s importance. Without the ESA we would probably not see Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons, their populations recovered because this act mandated their protection and restoration. The Marbled Murrelet and Northern Spotted Owl, both still imperiled, would likely be gone already without the ESA as would the old growth habitat they require. Many acres are set aside from logging to protect these birds. In mandating protection of murrelet and spotted owl habitat, the ESA has protected many other species as well.
Times have changed. Every Congress now sees bills introduced to weaken the ESA. During some administrations, executive action has undercut the act. Agencies have not always diligently implemented it. Passing the ESA was a great victory a half-century ago, and it remains an essential bulwark against loss of biodiversity and of much that Audubon members hold dear. Fifty years is a long time, but the act’s longevity is no assurance it will endure. Let’s certainly celebrate the Endangered Species Act but be ever prepared to rise to its defense.
There are near constant opportunities to add your support to preserving and restoring ESA listed species, to reverse some of the damage done to North America’s wildlife. Recently Audubon members and chapters voiced their support once more for restoring the grizzly to the North Cascades. Until January 16th the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, responsible for implementing the ESA, will take comments on the draft plan to prevent the invasive Barred Owl from driving the Northern Spotted Owl to extinction (Service Seeks Public Comment on Draft Strategy to Manage Invasive Barred Owls | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (fws.gov)). The North American Wolverine, rare in the North Cascades, was recently listed as a threatened species because climate change is impacting its essential winter habitat (North American wolverine receives federal protection as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (fws.gov)). A long overdue draft recovery plan for the Canada Lynx, also impacted by climate change and present in very limited numbers in our state, is open for comment through January 30th (Canada lynx draft recovery plan available for public review & comment | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (fws.gov)).
Celebrate the survival of species - - and the Endangered Species Act making it possible. Then add your voice to recovering America’s wild heritage.
For information on conservation issues and advocacy, see Conservation Notes on the Skagit Audubon website here: https://skagitaudubon.org/~dpnhwzgi/conservation/notes