Written testimony of
Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE,
Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute
UN Messenger of Peace
U.S. House of Representatives
House Natural Resources Committee
September 26, 2018
Thank you for this opportunity to express my strong support for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and my strong opposition to the package of nine bills before the House Natural Resources Committee on September 26, 2018. It is my considered opinion that if these bills are passed it will undermine the scientific integrity of the act and make it more difficult to protect and recover endangered species.
We, as humans, are fortunate to share the Earth with such a magnificent diversity of life forms, but Earth’s biodiversity is dwindling at an alarming rate. In just over 100 years, the population of wild chimpanzees has dropped from an estimated one – two million (probably closer to two million), to as few as 350,000, many of them living in fragmented patches of forest with little hope of long term survival. This is only one example of the decline in the population of a species the same decline is evident in almost every species, of wild animals including many in the United States. Indeed, we are experiencing what science describes as “The Sixth Great Extinction.” A 2017 study found that of the 27,600 land-based mammals, birds, amphibians and reptile species studied, nearly one-third are shrinking in terms of their population numbers and territorial ranges. In the last 40 years, we have lost about half of all wild animal species on Earth. Further, the rate of extinction is happening at about 100 times faster than what would be expected from studies of the fossil record.
Given this crisis, it is inconceivable to me that members of Congress are spending time to discuss efforts to gut the most successful piece of legislation for combatting species extinction when we should rather be working to strengthen it. We have a moral responsibility to protect the incredible life forms with which we share this planet for now and for future generations.
Thanks to the ESA, we’ve been able, to some extent, to counter the rate of extinction. – it has been estimated that over 200 species would have been wiped from our planet between 1973 and 2005 if it were not for the interventions of the ESA. Thanks to the ESA, ninety-nine percent of listed species have survived and many more have been set on a path to recovery, including the iconic American Bald Eagle, the Grizzly Bear and the Florida Manatee. The ESA is one of the only pieces of legislation that has long prevented the unique American landscape from turning into barren wasteland and is one of the few that has provided critical protections to imperiled species worldwide – such as elephants and tigers, as well as marine mammals such as whales and turtles who migrate between international waters, thus necessitating international cooperation.
The bills being discussed today would undermine these protections and make it more difficult for endangered species to recover. Surely, we do not want to live in a world without the great apes, our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom? A world where we can no longer marvel at the magnificent flight of bald eagles or hear the howl of wolves under the moon? A world not enhanced by the sight of a grizzly bear and her cubs hunting for berries in the wilderness? What would our grandchildren think if these magical images were only to be found in books?
In addition to undermining the facts provided by science under the ESA, this package of bills would also transfer key authority of wildlife management to state officials who all too often lack the funding and
sometimes the political will to adequately address the threats to imperiled species. These bills would also undercut citizen involvement in and enforcement of the ESA, further increasing the risk that species most at risk won’t be afforded vital federal protections until it is too late.
I urge you to reject this package of bills that would threaten species already at risk of disappearing forever, and instead only extend or increase protections under the Endangered Species Act to help secure adequate funding for projects to protect the world’s vanishing wildlife.
The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.