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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Giving Rare Species a Place on Our Planet

One of the quiddities of the U.S. Congress is that it’s slow by design. Bills have to make it through both the House and the Senate, via committee process and floor action in both chambers. That’s why more than 10,000 bills are introduced in a two-year congressional session, and only 4 to 5 percent actually become law.

Clouded_leopard There were several important wildlife protection measures that passed the House during the 110th Congress, but then stalled in the Senate. Those bills were reintroduced at the very start of the 111th Congress for quick action, and two of them—the Captive Primate Safety Act and the Shark Conservation Act—passed the House again earlier this year. The House is scheduled to vote on two more bills today that are considered unfinished business from last time around—a pair of important bipartisan policies that would help protect rare species of mammals and birds around the world.

H.R. 411, the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act—introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), John Tanner (D-Tenn.), Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), and Ed Royce (R-Calif.)—will provide financial resources for conservation programs to protect rare dog and cat species outside North America. A Senate version of the bill, S. 529, was introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). Species such as jaguars, clouded leopards, and African wild dogs are declining drastically due to habitat loss, poaching, disease, and human-wildlife conflict. This conservation funding will be a critical lifeline for rare dogs and cats ranging from the Ethiopian wolf to the Iberian lynx.

H.R. 388, the Crane Conservation Act—introduced by Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.)—will do the same for imperiled crane populations both here at home and across the globe. A Senate version of the bill, S. 197, was introduced by Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Cranes are the most endangered family of birds in the world, victims of pesticide, power lines, human encroachment, and even wars. Eleven of 15 species are at risk of extinction, and the North American whooping crane is the rarest of all cranes.

As Congresswoman Baldwin said, “Wisconsin has been a world leader in protecting this endangered family of birds. With federal support, the work done at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo can inspire and instruct conservationists at home and abroad in their efforts to protect this magnificent species.”

Whooping_Crane_lg2 The Multinational Species Conservation Fund already includes grant programs to help imperiled species—including Asian and African elephants, great apes, marine turtles, rhinoceroses, tigers, and neotropical migratory birds. Now, two separate accounts would be added to the fund specifically to assist cranes and rare dogs and cats.

Some reforms are so evident that there really is not a debate in society about the right course of action. Who could possibly think that Cape hunting dogs or black crowned cranes do not deserve a place on our planet, or jaguars or snow leopards for that matter? We hope today that the House approves these measures, and that Senate action follows swiftly. These are major advances in the waiting, and I extend our thanks to Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), and Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee Chairwoman Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) and Ranking Member Henry Brown (R-S.C.), who have made passage of these measures a priority when the species need our help the most.



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