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Blumenthal & Grijalva Introduce Extinction Prevention Act to Protect At-Risk Wildlife

Blumenthal announced the legislation today at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo on the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) reintroduced the Extinction Prevention Act, legislation to provide much-needed funding for some of the country’s most imperiled yet vastly underfunded wildlife species, including threatened and endangered North American butterflies, various Pacific Island plants, freshwater mussels, and Southwest desert fish. Blumenthal announced the measure today during an event at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo to mark the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act

“This legislation recognizes that saving wildlife from extinction requires more than just rhetoric—real resources are essential,” said Blumenthal. “Endangered species and their habitats can be sustained, but only if we back words with action.”

“The biodiversity crisis demands immediate and meaningful action to safeguard wildlife while we still have the chance,” said Grijalva. “Every species, regardless of its popularity or charisma, plays a vital role in the functioning of a natural ecosystem. Democrats secured crucial funding in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act to bolster endangered species recovery and this legislation builds on those investments by ensuring continuous funding to recover some of our nation's most underappreciated endangered species. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act this year, we must renew our efforts to protect our unique wildlife heritage and build resilience in the face of climate change. I thank Senator Blumenthal for joining me in this significant endeavor.”

The Extinction Prevention Act addresses the longstanding issue of insufficient funding which has plagued efforts to recover these at-risk species, in some cases, for decades. It authorizes $5 million annually for each species group to fund conservation projects related to:

  • restoration, protection, and management of ecosystems;
  • research and monitoring of populations;
  • development and implementation of management plans;
  • enforcement and implementation of applicable conservation laws; and
  • community outreach and education.

Habitat protection for these less charismatic species is chronically underfunded despite them being among the species most at risk of extinction.

  • North American butterflies—one of the fastest declining groups of all endangered species—have not seen a single species improve among the 39 listed.
  • The situation is equally dire in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, where nearly 400 plant species are threatened or endangered, representing about 22 percent of all listed species. In Hawaii, over 200 plant species have dwindled to fewer than 50 wild individuals.
  • Freshwater mussels are currently the most imperiled animal group in the country, with 70 percent of U.S. species at risk of extinction and 38 species already lost.
  • Southwest desert fish are being threatened by drought and water scarcity, resulting in significant population and habitat reductions. Currently, 42 species are listed as endangered or threatened.

Eligible applicants for funding include relevant states, territories, tribal governments, or any other entities with the expertise required for the conservation of the particular species group.

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and U.S. Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), Darren Soto (D-FL), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), and Joe Neguse (D-CO).

“In Hawaii, native plants are crucial to the islands’ history, culture, and environment, which is why our communities prioritize the preservation of our unique biodiversity,” said Hirono. “I’m glad to join my colleagues in reintroducing this legislation to invest in the conservation of some of our nation’s most vulnerable species. It is important that we protect endangered species so they can continue serving important ecological roles for years to come.”

“Scientists in the field are sharing their work and advocating for solutions needed to protect endangered species around the country,” said Merkley. “We must do more to help prevent the extinction of the western monarch and other critically important butterflies crucial to supporting life on earth as we know it. The Extinction Prevention Act supports this work by providing funding to help prevent the disappearance of the species at the highest risk of extinction: North American butterflies, freshwater mussels, desert fish, and Hawaiian plants.”

The legislation is also endorsed by the Endangered Species Coalition and the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Many of the smallest imperiled animals and plants don’t get the funding they need, even if they create tremendous benefits. Freshwater mussels are a great example—providing clean water. It is so appropriate, therefore, that the Extinction Prevention Act is being introduced on Endangered Species Day—a day of celebration for the Act’s many successes. This funding will increase the Act’s successes,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, primary sponsor of Endangered Species Day.

“For 50 years, the Endangered Species Act has saved hundreds of animals and plants from extinction, despite being severely underfunded by Congress,” said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Thanks to Rep. Grijalva and Sen. Blumenthal this legislation provides a much-needed lifeline to those species that have slipped through the cracks.”

Text of the Senate legislation can be found here.