Bills introduced to fight extinction crisis, protect birds

A new bill introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives late last month would classify the “global wildlife extinction crisis” as a national emergency.

That would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies, Under the Extinction Crisis Emergency Act, to advance species conservation through various mechanisms.

Under the bill, President Biden would have 90 days to declare a national emergency related to the wildlife extinction crisis. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries would be required to undertake a rapid review of all species in the United States identified as critically imperiled by NatureServe or critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable by the Inter- national Union for the Conservation of Nature. Then, they must take any necessary measures to protect them under the Endangered Species Act.

The bill also calls for the establishment of new national wildlife refuges and marine protected areas and requires the Department of Defense to prioritize the protection of endangered species and rare habitats on U.S. military installations around the world.

A second bill, also introduced in late June, aims to increase protections for 31 seabird species. The “Albatross and Petrel Conservation Act,” co-sponsored by Reps. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), would add the United States to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, an international conservation agreement that 13 member countries have signed since 2001.

Albatross and petrel populations face threats from habitat loss, invasive predators, marine pollution and fisheries bycatch — the incidental take of non-target species in fisheries equipment.

According to a press release from the bill’s sponsors, the act “ties together existing U.S. laws and statutes without substantially changing current laws in order to implement the international agreement.” It would authorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries to implement a series of measure to conserve albatross and petrel populations, such as fisheries conservation measures and increased international fisheries enforcement, as well as habitat restoration.

Similar bills have been introduced in three previous sessions of Congress. Last year’s bill was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee but never received a vote on the House floor.

Header Image: Legislation introduced last month would increase protections for albatrosses and petrels.
Credit: Brenda Zaun/USFWS