Rare Green Win:
In a rare victory for the environment, spearheaded by Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected an amendment to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act.
The so-called "Extinction Rider" would have prevented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service from spending any money to list new species under the act, despite a backlog of 260 species needing protection.
The prominent species awaiting protection include two predators found in the North Cascades -- the wolverine and Canadian lynx -- as well as creatures ranging from the Pacific Walrus to the Sonoran Desert Tortoise.
"They would have also blocked designation of critical habitat necessary to a species survival," said Dicks.
The move by Dicks to strike the "Extinction Rider" passed 224-202, with 37 House Republicans breaking ranks to support it.
"It has been a bad day for the environment except for this amendment: It's the only thing we've won on all day," Dicks said in an interview with seattlepi.com
All five of Washington's Democratic House members, and Republican Reps. Dave Reichert and Jaime Herrera Beutler voted to kill the "Extinction Rider." Reps. Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republicans from Eastern Washington, voted for the anti-environmental measure.
Until Wednesday, Rep. Herrera Beutler has been a virtual rubber stamp for the House Republican leadership. She voted to eliminate the Land and Water Conservation Fund and on another occasion to block energy efficiency standards for new light bulbs.
Dicks walked across the House floor to thank Herrera Beutler. "She told me, 'I thought it was the right thing to do'," said Dicks, who is senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.
Marjorie Mulhall, of the environmental group Earthjustice, said: "The majority's vote today affirms that we absolutely don't have to let our imperiled species die off in order to balance our budget. Anyone who says otherwise, deeply underestimates our nation.
"We averted one disaster today, but we are still faced with many more in the House spending bill. The Extinction Ridger was indicative of the kind of extreme and devastating measures that comprise this bill."
Dicks has served in the House since 1977, and has fought these battles before.
Early in the Reagan administration, he help save the Land and Water Conservation Fund -- which preserves key natural and recreation lands -- from elimination at the hands of then-Interior Secretary James Watt. Watt telephoned Dicks and threatened to come out to Washington and campaign against him.
In 1995, with Newt Gingrich as House Speaker, he helped head off a bid by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to strip the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of its enforcement authority. Then, as Wednesday, two Republican House members from Washington broke ranks to head off enemies of environmental protection.
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