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Congress Making Moves to Address the Biodiversity Crisis

July 29, 2021
By
Addie Haughey Legislative Director, Lands, Wildlife, and Oceans

Earthjustice is fighting to stop the mass extinction of species. These bills could help.

This week the House of Representatives took the first step on more than a dozen pieces of legislation that address the biodiversity crisis. Individually, these bills target gaps in our nation’s wildlife and biodiversity policies and investments, and collectively they would have an enormous impact on the crisis we now face — more than a million species are at risk of extinction in our lifetime

Here are a few of the key pieces of legislation that will receive a hearing in the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee, and how they would address the biodiversity crisis: 

  • Tackle illegal fishing that harms people and ocean wildlife: Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), the subcommittee chair, is the main sponsor of the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act of 2021, which takes a comprehensive approach to improving our existing tools for combating illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing and transforming our nation’s role from being an unintentional consumer of illegal and unregulated fishing products to being a global leader on prevention.
  • Coordinate our efforts on climate and biodiversity: The Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment (SAFE) Act, sponsored by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), would work to protect wildlife and biodiversity from the impacts of extreme weather and climate change by improving how the federal government assesses and addresses these threats. 
  • Invest in state, territory, and Tribal wildlife conservation: Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act of 2021, which would dedicate nearly $1.4 billion to wildlife conservation, including $97.5 million annually for Tribal nations. 
  • Target our most at-risk species:House Committee on Natural Resources Chair Rep. Raúl Grijalva’s (D-AZ) Extinction Prevention Act acknowledges that less charismatic species often face an uphill battle for funding for conservation, but are central to preserving biodiversity and functioning ecosystems. The bill would target North American butterflies, Pacific island plants, freshwater mussels, and Southwest desert fish to make impactful investments to prevent extinction and restore these key elements of the web of life. In addition, several more bills at the hearing will target specific species in need of attention, including:
    • Monarch Butterflies: The MONARCH Act of 2021 from Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) would specifically support the western population of monarch butterflies — the population of these remarkable migrators that is most at risk. 
    • Marine Mammals: The Marine Mammal Research and Response Act, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) and Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), would increase funding for local governments and nonprofits that rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals. 
    • Bears: Rep. Ted Lieu’s (D-CA) Bear Protection Act of 2021 would would combat the use of bears’ gallbladders and bile for black market medicines, a practice that has driven poaching in the U.S. and abroad.
    • Kelp: Kelp forests are in crisis. They are the backbone of healthy ocean ecosystems along the U.S. West Coast, but we are losing them at an alarming rate. The Keeping Ecosystems Living and Productive (KELP) Act would provide resources to Tribes, scientists, and others to support ecological restoration and socioeconomic resilience.
Grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park.

Grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park

Neal Herbert / National Park Service