COMMENTARY: For World Wildlife Day, ask your U.S. senators to support the END Wildlife Trafficking Act
Today is World Wildlife Day. While it is certainly a day to revel in the amazing variety of animals that walk, swim, and fly on Earth, it also a day to ponder the growing threat to the survival of many of those species.
The list of iconic animals who are at risk of extinction because of humanity’s actions is shockingly long. There are too many species to mention here, but the roster of the imperiled includes all the great apes except for us, nearly all the big cats, elephants, rhinos, and sharks.
This video makes clear how poaching, in particular, threatens African elephants:
As a way of celebrating this day, the author of this blog suggests that you urge your U.S. senators to support the proposed Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act. The bill takes direct aim at poaching, which is the leading hazard to many of the wildlife species at risk of extinction as well as a danger to national security because it helps to finance terrorism.
The bill would accomplish these objectives:
- Require the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking to work with the governments of countries affected by wildlife poaching and trafficking on an analysis of the threats each country faces, and to put together a plan with recommendations on how to address these threats;
- Authorize a variety of assistance programs available to the Secretary of State, the USAID Administrator, and other relevant agency heads to address poaching and wildlife trafficking problems, including strengthening training for law enforcement and wildlife rangers in impacted countries, supporting capacity for investigations and border inspections, strategies to encourage community-based conservation programs, and others;
- Promote bilateral agreements and international cooperation to combat wildlife trafficking and reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife and wildlife products; and
- Include rigorous reporting requirements to monitor progress made on stemming the tide of poaching and trafficking in countries of concern, and to ensure the best use of taxpayer dollars.
S. 2385 must be reported favorably by the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee before it can receive a vote from all senators. No committee hearing on the bill has been scheduled. If approved by the Senate, the legislation would then have to be adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives before being sent to the President for his approval.
The proposed END Wildlife Trafficking Act is supported by the African Wildlife Foundation, the Humane Society of the United States, TRAFFIC, Tsavo Conservation Group, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Wildlife Fund.
A similar bill, the proposed Global Anti-Poaching Act, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last November.
The U.S. Senate again refused on Thursday to acknowledge the human role in climate change, voting down two proposals that would have forced members to go on record as recognizing scientific reality.
Senators first rejected an amendment to the underlying bill authorizing the KXL oil pipeline that specified that climate change is “real” and “caused by human activities” and “has already caused devastating problems in the United States and around the world.” The proposal, offered by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also included language that encouraged research into “clean fossil fuel technology.”
The Senate tabled the amendment, 53-46, with only one Republican – Mark Kirk of Illinois – voting with Democrats to allow floor debate on its merits.
Later, an amendment introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that also acknowledged human impacts on the atmosphere and oceans and that emphasized the importance of developing non-fossil fuel energy sources was also tabled.
The chamber, with every one of 54 majority Republicans opposed to it, voted 56-42 to table it. Democratic senators Heidi Heitkamp of oil-producing state North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri also voted to deny consideration of its merits.
Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced late Thursday night that the Senate would not consider additional amendments to S.1. A vote on whether to cut off floor debate on the bill itself is expected early next week.
President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any bill that interferes with his authority to decide whether or not to grant the permit required to construct the KXL pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border.