Trump Overhauls Landmark Endangered Species Protections

Pablo Tucker
June 1, 2020

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the protections it has afforded to threatened and endangered species have been based on the best available science and commercial data.

The Trump administration announced Monday it is rolling back some protections provided by the Endangered Species Act - one of America's landmark pieces of conservation legislation. "The Act's effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation", U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in a statement.

For 30 years, Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) has lead the fight to prevent marine animals from going extinct, and is now suing the Trump administration for permitting a new longline fishery in the Pacific Ocean despite a federal ban on longline gear created in 2004 to protect sea turtles.

Monday's changes "take a wrecking ball to one of our oldest and most effective environmental laws, the Endangered Species Act", Sen.

"Nothing in here in my view is a radical change for how we have been consulting and listing species for the last decade or so", he said.

The Trump administration has cherry-picked scientific evidence to make a case to delist the gray wolf across the country, rolled back conservation plans for the sage grouse, and suppressed publication of research conducted by federal scientists demonstrating three pesticides alone jeopardize the continued existence of more than 1200 endangered or threatened species. "These changes were subject to a robust, transparent public process, during which we received significant public input that helped us finalize these rules". Republican lawmakers have pushed for years to change the Endangered Species Act itself, in Congress. The changes, which could lead to extinction for hundreds of animals and plants, are illegal and will be challenged in court.

The department will also limit how far into the future it looks to determine if a species will become threatened or extinct, a move some worry will blind the federal government to the influence of climate change. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, said in a statement.

"Our industry actively works to conserve species every day, but the current regulatory framework for the Endangered Species Act hinders landowners and companies from effectively protecting and recovering species", said Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma.

At least 10 attorneys general joined conservation groups in protesting an early draft of the changes, saying they put more wildlife at greater risk of extinction.

Several critics noted a United Nations report from May, which warned that more than one million plants and animals are facing global extinction due to human development and climate change.

"It's clear, we are accelerating for sure at the hands of the Trump administration species extinction in very very risky and concerning ways", Rappaport Clark told reporters on a call Monday.

"There were some tears shed", Entz said, of the moment when tribal officials realized the animal had dwindled in the wild past the point of saving.

Almost since the dawn of the republic, America's Bald Eagle has been featured on many official logos of the USA government, including 1792's Great Seal of the United States.

"There's times where hope is something you don't even want to talk about", he said.

But perhaps most troubling is the removal of language that in the past prevented economic impacts from affecting whether or not a species qualified as endangered.

Becerra told reporters that "this is not the time to go low, go slow or go backward".

"Our bedrock environmental laws are under assault", said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation group based in Washington, D.C.

The administration unveiled its changes to the act Monday, saying the new regulations of the ESA were created to increase transparency and effectiveness, and bring the administration of the act into the 21st century.

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