This week the US House of Representatives passed – with the support of the Bush Administration – a new version of the Endangered Species Act that rips the heart out of this important legislation. The National Resources Defense Council reports:
"It would be scandalous to pass this bill into law. This legislation would do nothing to protect wildlife and, in fact, would lead to more extinctions. "Of the many damaging provisions in this bill, one of the worst would repeal rules that protect endangered species from pesticides like DDT, which nearly killed off the bald eagle years ago.
"The bill also would fleece U.S. taxpayers by paying wealthy developers to comply with endangered species protections. Under a loose compensation scheme, land developers would be able to name their price for lost profits. In America we don't pay people not to pollute.
"Most damaging to species recovery, however, is the bill's complete elimination of essential habitat protections. It defies common sense to expect an endangered species to recover if the place it calls home is converted to condos or paved for a parking lot."
Many mainline Christian organizations – including the National Council of Churches USA – opposed the legislation.
"In Scripture, God expresses awe and pleasure with all of God's creation, paying attention to even the seemingly least significant creature. In the story of Noah's ark, God reveals the desire that all life be preserved. We, as human members of God's family, are called to care for God's creation and all of God's creatures.
In recent decades, one way to show this compassion and fulfill our stewardship duty has been to implement the Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act has worked to prevent extinctions, stabilize declining species, and bring some at-risk species to the point of recovery. Scientists have estimated that nearly 200 more species would have gone extinct without the Endangered Species Act and over 40 percent of the species protected by the Endangered Species Act have stabilized or improved their populations.
Legislation championed by Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (HR 3824) would effectively weaken the Endangered Species Act. We urge you to oppose HR 3824 on the moral grounds that extinction is not stewardship and that one of humanity's responsibilities is to care for all living things. We disavow misleading economic interests that would drive us to sacrifice the wonder, beauty, usefulness, and graciousness of the gifts God has given us all. We firmly hold that we are called to live our lives to glorify God and that development and profit at the expense of God's glory, of which the environment and all the species are but part, is sinful.
We oppose bills that would weaken the Endangered Species Act. As people of faith and as a society, let us ensure that species needing protection are put on the Endangered Species list, that science is allowed to inform those decisions, that the habitat of endangered species is safeguarded, and that endangered species programs receive adequate funding.
As part of our commitment to God we must remember and honor God's covenant with us all: "the sign of the covenant I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations" (Genesis 9:12).
Sincerely, Commission on Religion in Appalachia, Episcopal Church, Washington Office, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Washington Office, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church, Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, Mennonite Central Committee, National Council of Churches USA, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington Office, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
The bill now heads for the Senate.