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Thursday, June 07, 2018

Key House committee okays Interior spending bill with harmful provisions for grizzly bears, wolves

The Interior spending bill that passed the House Appropriations Committee yesterday brought some good news for animals, including animals used in research and testing. But the bill poses a threat to some of America’s most iconic wildlife species, including grizzly bears and wolves, and takes the wrong track on the management of wild horses and burros.

GRIZZLY-BEAR-ISTOCK-647126690_369827 (1)
Photo courtesy iStock.com

Here are some of the most important provisions affecting animals:

Animals used in testing: We strongly support language in the bill that encourages the Environmental Protection Agency to report on its development, use, implementation, and interagency coordination on test methods and strategies that assess the human and environmental safety of chemical substances without causing harm to animals. This further builds on the EPA’s recent actions to limit the number of animal tests required for the registration of pesticides, as well as the passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which gives preference for non-animal methods of determining toxic chemicals’ safety hazards. There is room for the EPA to do more to prevent animal testing conducted within the agency itself or in coordination with other federal agencies, and this provision in the spending bill is a good step forward.

Wild horses and burros: The committee approved an amendment by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) that increases funding for the Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse and burro program. However, the amendment would direct funds for the agency to permanently sterilize wild horses, return them to the range and create non-reproducing herds. While permanent surgical sterilization methods have long been practiced and perfected on domestic dogs and cats, field sterilization of wild, ungentled mares, has not. Strong concerns remain not only regarding the feasibility and economic burden of permanently sterilizing large numbers of horses in the wild, but also about the humaneness of performing invasive procedures on wild mares that could result in numerous painful and life-threatening complications. Moreover, the concept of non-reproducing herds negates the intent of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 and BLM’s own regulations which require the agency to manage these animals, in part, by creating self-maintaining herds of wild horses and burros. We urge Congress to provide increased funding to the wild horse and burro program but to push for humane solutions, such as PZP, an already available reversible birth control tool, to manage wild horses and burros on the range.

Grizzly bears: In March, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced his support for grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades Ecosystem of Washington State, emphasizing the “ecological devastation” that the permanent loss of grizzly bears to this ecosystem would cause. The unexpected announcement seemed to signal a shift from last June, when the Interior department finalized a rule delisting grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. However, an amendment offered yesterday by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and approved by the committee, would bar the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from moving forward with a plan to transplant or introduce grizzly bears in the North Cascades Ecosystem.

Gray wolves: The spending bill bars judicial review of a previous final rule removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf in Wyoming, directs the interior secretary to reissue a final rule removing federal ESA protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes states, and bars judicial review of that action. As if that weren’t enough, it directs the interior secretary to issue a final rule removing federal ESA protections for the gray wolf in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia, and bars judicial review of the action. The western Great Lakes wolf delisting language also overrides a federal appeals court ruling last year that maintained these very protections for these wolves. Congress should not be cherry-picking species from the threatened and endangered lists based on political whim, circumventing sound science and shutting the public out of the process.

There is still time to ensure that some of the harmful provisions in this bill do not become law. The Senate Appropriations Committee will take up the spending bill next, so please call both of your senators and urge them to vote to keep protections for wolves and grizzly bears and push for humane solutions for wild equines in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

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