Written testimony of
Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE
Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
September 23, 2020
Today, as the Environment and Public Works committee discusses proposed amendments to the Endangered Species Act, I am grateful to have this opportunity to affirm my passionate support for the ESA. The ESA has saved many species of animals and plants from being lost forever.
We are already in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction, and it is essential that we protect this legislation. We are part of and not separate from the natural world- we depend upon it for our very existence. A healthy ecosystem provides us with many benefits – and ecosystems suffer as different animal and plant species become extinct.
Protecting habitat for endangered species not only benefits their recovery but also can help prevent zoonotic disease transmission in the future (as habitat destruction forces animals into closer contact with humans), and greatly enhance ecosystem services, human wellbeing, and sustainability (Kubiszewski et al. 2020).
Though the proposed amendments are presented by some as innovations, they will impose arbitrary state control over the careful process of listing species and critical habitats as endangered and also make it easier to delist them.
As only 10% of states have significant habitat safeguards, this would be a great danger for species in need of protection. The current pandemic has highlighted the danger of animals being forced into closer contact with humans as a result of habitat destruction so that any increase in destruction is undesirable. It would also be another step towards a continued and dangerous lack of respect for the natural world. This proposed state management, which would really result in a lack of state regulation, rampant conversion of habitat for development, and disregard for wildlife, would be disastrous.
These amendments would also reduce the public’s ability to comment on proposals for listing species and minimize the ability to challenge the lawfulness of delisting species. This could mean that species that are iconic to the American landscape, including the American Bald Eagle, the American Grizzly Bear, and the Florida Manatee, could be gone, truly gone, forever.
We, the most intelligent species to ever walk on the face of Earth, continue to destroy our only home, imperil countless other species and contribute to the unraveling of the rich biodiversity of life necessary to maintain the health of the planet.
There is abundant evidence showing the success of the ESA, as it has been estimated that over 200 species would have become extinct between 1973 and 2005 if it were not for the actions taken the Act. That success gives me hope.
There is a great need to advance innovative thinking to accelerate further the recovery of endangered species and their habitats – adaptive management, the involvement of local communities, increased funding and research which would provide the necessary data to put conservation plans in place where they are needed most and provide this information to the public in a transparent, digital way. These must be our goals – not weakening the ESA.
Something I believe wholeheartedly is that humans can live in harmony with the natural world and that our extraordinary human intellect, though it has caused great harm, can also be our salvation. I believe as well that only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our true potential.
By opposing these amendments, you have the opportunity to prevent changes to the ESA that are based on disrespect for nature and a cold drive toward monetary gain.
When we have the chance to use our hearts in tandem with our intellect and work together, we can achieve protections that benefit us all. We can ensure that we continue to live in a world where we marvel at the magnificent flight of bald eagles, hear the howl of wolves under the moon, and where our grandchildren know these magical beings as real and alive as they are, not only as images of the past in books of our failures.
Kubiszewski, I., Costanza, R., Anderson, S., & Sutton, P. (2020). The future value of ecosystem services: Global scenarios and national implications. In Environmental Assessments. Edward Elgar Publishing.