May 16, 2019

Whitehouse, Cartwright Introduce Bill to Protect Natural Resources from Climate Change Amid New Warning from UN

One million plant and animal species at risk of extinction, according to UN report

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA) today introduced a bill to protect natural resources and wildlife from extreme weather and climate change.  Whitehouse and Cartwright’s Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment (SAFE) Act would build on existing federal, state, and local efforts to establish an integrated national approach for environmental protection.

An alarming new report released by the United Nations earlier this month indicates that about one million species of animals and plants are at risk of extinction, in large part due to human-caused climate change and pollution.

“We need a national strategy to protect natural resources and wildlife from the effects of climate change, and we need it quickly,” said Senator Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  “Scientists around the world are warning that we’re on a collision course with disaster if we don’t shore up the vital natural resources that underpin our economy, food security, health, and quality of life.”

“Climate change poses an immediate and long-term threat to the natural resources that so many local communities depend on.  Preparing for climate change will reduce long-term costs, preserve our natural resources, and protect jobs that depend on the health of our environment,” said Representative Cartwright, vice-chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC).  “This bill will develop a climate change adaptation plan to protect our lands and waterways, including the Delaware River that borders my district in northeastern Pennsylvania.  I look forward to working with Senator Whitehouse to pass this vital legislation.”

The SAFE Act would require federal natural resource agencies to form an interagency working group to plan and implement a long-term national climate change adaptation strategy based on the best available science.  State, local, and tribal governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions, and private sector representatives would be called upon to lend their expertise to the working group.  The legislation would require agencies to work together to identify and prioritize specific conservation and management strategies to respond to extreme weather and climate change.  The bill would also encourage the development of state-specific adaptation plans. 

This national strategy would guide federal adaptation plans and reduce redundancy and costs.  The SAFE Act would also create the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, to develop and compile scientific information on climate variability.

Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are cosponsoring the bill in the Senate.

Organizations endorsing the SAFE Act include Defenders of Wildlife, Alaska Wilderness Action, The Wilderness Society, World Wildlife Fund, National Parks Conservation Association, The Wildlife Society, and Los Padres ForestWatch.

“In light of the recent United Nations report on impending species extinctions, it is devastatingly apparent that we need to redouble our efforts to safeguard our natural world from climate change impacts,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife.  “The SAFE Act is designed to do just that. This bill recognizes the countless benefits strong and resilient natural systems provide to our country’s well-being by legislating a comprehensive national strategy to prioritize climate change adaptation nationwide.”

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