WASHINGTON— Two sneak attacks on imperiled wildlife are hidden in legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. The House of Representatives announced today that it would vote in coming days on the bill, which was introduced April 7 by Rep. Shuster (R-Pa.) and Rep. DeFazio (D-Ore.).
Buried in the text of the FAA legislation, which has not had a congressional hearing and has been expedited outside the normal legislative process, are provisions that would entirely exempt another agency — the Federal Emergency Management Agency — from the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. Federal wildlife experts have previously concluded that FEMA’s activities are putting dozens of salmon species and Puget Sound killer whales in jeopardy of extinction.
A separate provision in the legislation would give the secretary of Transportation the authority to interfere in the science-based process of designating critical habitat in and around airports. Fewer than 10 endangered species nationwide are found around airport properties, and even fewer have critical habitat designated on airports. The FAA has a longstanding memorandum of agreement to effectively manage their properties for endangered wildlife.
“We don’t need to drive salmon and killer whales to extinction to keep airplanes flying safely,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These poison pill riders are reckless giveaways to special interests. They’re deeply out of touch with the values of the American people, who overwhelmingly support protecting our most imperiled wildlife.”
In 2017 the Trump administration requested that Congress exempt FEMA from the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. And in April 2018, the administration announced it would roll back protections for critical habitat, make it more difficult to protect additional species under the Act, and weaken protections for threatened species moving forward.
“This is how the Endangered Species Act dies, one cut at a time,” said Hartl. “It’s disturbing that Rep. DeFazio is continuing to carry water for the Trump administration’s extreme anti-environmental agenda.”
Endangered species found on airport properties include the Olympia pocket gopher in Washington, Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly in Washington and Oregon, and Salt Creek tiger beetle in Nebraska.