The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is “in greater peril now than it has been in its 40-year history,” Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) wrote on Saturday. The law has been threatened by conservative politicians who have been working to dismantle its environmental protections.

In an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press, Dingell wrote of the importance of the law, enacted in 1973, of which he was a lead author. He is proud of the legislation and everything it has accomplished, but fears that it is on the verge of destruction due to partisan politics.

Our country was the first to say that only natural extinction is part of natural order; extinction caused by human neglect and interference is not. Science is at the core of the ESA, and should remain so… Sadly, partisan bickering and political agendas threaten to return us to the times when we were destroying our great natural treasures. I am saddened to report that this cornerstone environmental law is in greater peril now than it has been in its 40-year history.

The Act was created to conserve ecosystems upon which threatened and endangered species depend, as well as to protect the endangered species themselves. Last month, Tea Party Senators introduced a bill that aims to revise the ESA in order to provide companies the ability to operate without environmental considerations.

In their attempt to remove protections for threatened species in order to benefit big business, conservative politicians have claimed that the ESA has not achieved its goal of recovering threatened and endangered species. Rather, they say, the Act “imposes” costs on the private sector.

The bill proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) would allow states to opt-out of the ESA’s protections, would require Congress to pass a joint resolution in order to place a species on the lists, and would remove all species from the lists after a period of 5 years regardless of their status.

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has also launched several attacks against the legislation.  Recently, Hastings fought to overturn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s decision to place two rare plants (from his congressional district in eastern Washington) on the Endangered Species list.

In 2012, claiming that he wanted to “improve” the Act, Hastings accused environmental groups of getting rich from lawsuits related to the ESA. He used false information to call into question peer-reviewed science and attorney practices in attempt to justify making cuts to the law.

In the midst of consistent attacks by politicians representing the interests of big business, Dingell says that we must work even harder to ensure the survival of protections put in place by the ESA 40 years ago.

“From efforts to defund the agencies that oversee its implementation, to the forces that work to find and exploit loopholes in the law to put industry profits ahead of our planet, defending the ESA will require a diligence the likes of which we have not witnessed before,” he said. “But we must fight against these challenges and know these challenges threaten to roll back years of progress.”

Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.