Eyes on Washington week ending 06.23.17

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The Paris Agreement: few Americans support U.S. withdrawal from the agreement

American support for the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change is very low, according to a new poll. Half of Americans believe Trump’s decision to exit the accords will stunt long-term economic growth.

The new poll from The Associated Press and the University of Chicago’s NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 46 percent of Americans somewhat or strongly opposed withdrawing from the agreement. Twenty-three percent were neither in favor or opposed, and 29 percent supported the withdrawal.

Party affiliation correlated to opinions on the Trump administration’s controversial move, with 51 percent of Republicans in favor of the withdrawal and 69 percent of Democrats opposed to it.

The poll also found that those who do not believe in climate change are three times more likely to support withdrawal from the agreement than those who say that climate change exists.

Forty-three percent of Americans believe that U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement will damage global efforts to combat climate change, and another 44 percent worry that the withdrawal will harm the nation’s reputation in the international community.

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Secretary of the Interior plans to cut up to 4,000 workers

Thousands of federal workers at the Interior Department could soon find themselves out of a job as the Trump administration looks to reorganize the agency and cut its funding by 12 percent.

In written testimony submitted last Tuesday to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke noted that Donald Trump’s 2018 budget request would slash funding by $1.6 billion—to $11.7 billion—and support just shy of 60,000 full-time staff, a reduction of roughly 4,000.

Zinke, who’s tasked with managing some 500 million acres of federal land―roughly one-fifth of the United States—told the Senate committee last week he supports Trump’s proposal, which he said is “what a balanced budget looks like.” The Interior workforce, he said, is “too heavy in middle and upper management,” and his plan is to shift those assets out into the field, including America’s national parks.

“The way we’re organized currently is we’re all different bureaus reporting to their different regions, and we’re not very good at joint operations,” he said. “So we’re looking at appropriately moving assets to where they should be.”

Shortly after assuming his new post in early March, Zinke promised his staff he would “fight” Trump on the looming budget cuts.

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Calls to reform the Endangered Species Act on the rise

NPR reports: The Endangered Species Act is facing a growing number of calls for significant changes. Momentum in Congress and in western states is building to give states more of a say when making changes to the landmark regulation that protects about 1,600 animal and plant species, and their habitats.

Since January, 28 pieces of legislation were introduced to change the act.

However, determining when species are removed from the list is a biological question, not a political question,” says, Dough Keinath, the recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But often, it is a political question. The Endangered Species Act is credited with keeping 99 percent of listed species from crossing over into extinction. Still, critics contend it’s ineffective, burdening local wildlife managers with excessive federal oversight and leading to long-running legal battles to get species off the list.

One solution say critics: Give states more power over their endangered species. Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik, of Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department, says the state’s work with the grizzly bear is one example.

“By all biological and scientific measures, grizzly bears have been recovered in Wyoming since 2003. And to this day, after being delisted once and relisted again, they still remain under federal protections… the goal is not perpetual federal management,” he says.

Wyoming’s Governor Matt Mead agrees. He’s leading an effort among western governors to review the Endangered Species Act. The National Governor’s Association unanimously adopted the initiative in March.

Congress is stepping up its own efforts, too. “I think these calls are entirely disingenuous. Modernize when it comes from the likes of Matt Mead … is a euphemism for: gut protections for endangered species,” says Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Greenwald says species like grizzly bears may be recovered at a local level, but that doesn’t mean they recovered nationally. And he says, the Endangered Species Act is meant to be a last line of defense.

Greenwald also takes issue with the complaints about the act. He says species like grizzly bears may be recovered at a local level, but that doesn’t mean they’re recovered nationally.

Greenwald says the act is an insurance policy for when states fail to protect their species.

“The states have primary jurisdiction over wildlife within their boundaries,” he says. “The fact that species get listed reflects that they weren’t able to manage that.” He also says states simply don’t have the expertise or funding to properly protect their species.

And even with federal and state support, recovery just needs time.

Meanwhile, last Wednesday, a federal judge threw out the Department of Justice’s flawed ‘McKittrick Policy’ under which the government only prosecuted killers of animals on the Endangered Species Act’s list of imperiled species when it could prove the killer knew the exact biological identity of the species s/he was harming. The decision came as a result of a challenge brought by WildEarth Guardians and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance in 2013.

“The end of the McKittrick Policy is a crucial victory for critically imperiled animals including Mexican wolves and grizzly bears,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “Wildlife killers who are either profoundly careless or worse, who intentionally target protected animals, no longer have a get-out-of-jail-free card by claiming they did not know the identity of the animals they kill.”

“The Court’s ruling is a victory for endangered species across the country, but especially for those like the Mexican gray wolf, whose highest cause of mortality is illegal killing,” said Judy Calman, staff attorney for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “This decision is an affirmation of Congress’s intent that endangered species recovery should be the highest priority for federal agencies, and that people who harm listed species should be held accountable under the law.”

WildEarth Guardians v. United States Department of Justice

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USDA posts Animal Welfare Inspection Reports

On June 16th, the USDA announced additional inspection reports of Animal Welfare Act compliance inspections that were conducted between April 22, 2017 and May 19, 2017 were posted on the agency’s website.

As part of the USDA’s comprehensive review of the documents removed from their website in early February, they are continuing to closely review animal inventories that accompany inspection reports. For this reason, the newly posted inspection reports do not include animal inventories, but the agency intends to make this information available in the future.

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