After Trump admin rollback to Endangered Species Act, Whitmer, govs back wildlife bill

Kirtland's Warbler | USFWS via Flickr Public Domain

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday was the lead a letter signed by five other Great Lakes governors to congressional leaders asking them to back the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA).

This comes after the President Trump administration issued rules in August rolling back the landmark 1973 Endangered Species Act. Among the changes announced by the U.S. Interior and Commerce departments was mandating regulators must look at economic factors when determining whether a species should be classified as endangered. Environmentalists say that allows officials to ignore the impact of climate change.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel last month joined 18 attorneys general and the city of New York in filing suit against the Trump administration’s rule changes, as the Advance reported.

Next up for Nessel: Taking on Trump over Endangered Species Act rollback

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), who sponsored RAWA, said it would repeal all Trump administration changes to the Endangered Species Act.

The group signing the letter includes GOP Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Democratic Pennsylvania Tom Wolf, Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz. The letter was sent to U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and ranking member Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at LCC, Oct. 10, 2019 | Nick Manes

RAWA is aimed at helping conserve and recover the nation’s fish and wildlife by dedicating $1.3 billion for state-level conservation and $97.5 million to tribal nations to recover and sustain healthy fish and wildlife populations. The funds will be used to accelerate the recovery of the more than 12,000 species of greatest conservation need across the country by implementing the strategies identified in each state’s Congressionally-mandated State Wildlife Action Plan.

“The decline of our fish and wildlife, and their natural habitats, are one of the greatest threats to our environment and our economy,” said Whitmer“The future of Michigan, and the entire country, rests on our ability to come together and protect our wildlife and natural resources. That’s why this bipartisan coalition of governors have come together to support the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.”

The governors said the bill would “represent the largest investment in conservation funding in more than a generation and help ensure that future generations can enjoy the same abundant fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreation opportunities that we have today.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell | Andrew Roth

The Endangered Species Act was written by the late Michigan U.S. Rep. John Dingell, Debbie Dingell’s husband who died this year.

Whitmer called Debbie Dingell a “fierce leader on this issue” and added that as governor, she “will not stop working to protect our natural resources and environment on behalf of future generations.”

“Bold solutions are needed to safeguard our nation’s fish and wildlife from further decline,” said Dingell. “Thanks to Gov. Whitmer’s leadership, Michigan leads the nation in innovative conservation programs to safeguard the environment for current and future generations. The broad, bipartisan support from these Great Lakes governors for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is a strong commitment to tackling the biodiversity crisis.”

State Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger said that RAWA’s passage will allow Michigan to annually invest as much as $30 million more in managing and protecting species like the Kirtland’s warbler, a songbird which was recently removed from the federal endangered species list.

Eichinger said that RAWA will result in “even more conservation success stories for our state and the nation.”

The Michigan attorney general’s office said that the Trump administration’s changes to the Endangered Species Act could harm 26 Michigan endangered species and their habitats, including Kirtland’s warbler, Karner blue butterfly, Piping plover and gray wolf. The list of threatened or endangered species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledges as “believed or known” to call Michigan home can be found here.

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Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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