Environmental activists at the nonprofit Endangered Species Coalition grew alarmed last week when they received a call from someone at the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Apparently, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had issued a directive withdrawing the service from participating in this month’s annual Endangered Species Day set of educational events.
The coalition—which considers the event its signature project--on April 28 issued a press release declaring, “We’re extremely disappointed to see Secretary Zinke pulling out of this decade-long educational effort to raise awareness about endangered species conservation.” Brock Evans, president of the coalition, continued: “Combined with recent conservation rollbacks affecting wildlife on public lands, we’re concerned that this may indicate that the Trump administration simply does not care about protecting our nation’s imperiled wildlife. We hope that is not the case, but this is discouraging.”
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But lo and behold, the environmental group got another call saying never mind. “The Fish and Wildlife Service called us this morning to inform us that their previous communication was a mistake,” the group said in a Friday update. “They will remain committed to Endangered Species Day. It is our hope that this will be the largest Endangered Species Day celebration ever with many Fish and Wildlife Service offices participating.”
The event set this year for May 19 was the subject of an enthusiastic FWS press release in February detailing plans to boost the activities for children at zoos and aquariums nationwide, including a youth art contest sponsored by the coalition.
Asked to explain the mishap, Gavin Shire, chief of the FWS Office of Public Affairs, told Government Executive, “We’re still trying to get to the bottom of it. We’ve been a partner for the last 12 years, and will partner this year,” he said. “It’s some kind of miscommunication, and we received no communication from the Interior Department in regard to this.”
Endangered Species Day was created by a Senate resolution in 2006 to encourage “the people of the United States to become educated about, and aware of, threats to species, success stories in species recovery, and the opportunity to promote species conservation worldwide.” It has since been celebrated in May by countries such as Australia, Bahamas/Nassau, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, England, French Polynesia, India, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, Scotland and Sweden, the coalition reports.
The nonprofit emphasizes the original 1973 Endangered Species Act passed in a bipartisan vote of 92-0 in the Senate and 394-4 in the House. “Although some members of Congress are now seeking to weaken this safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction,” the group said last week, pointing to critics such as Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, “recent public opinion research indicates that the law maintains broad, bipartisan, public support even today.”