Trump Administration Slashes Endangered Species Act, Worsening Extinction Crisis

A bald eagle is seen along the American Trail at the Smithsonian National Zoo Aug. 11 2016 in Washington D.C

The act now protects more than 1,500 species and remains one of the most powerful environmental laws on the books. "The Endangered Species Act works; our communities- both natural and human - have reaped the benefits".

Under the new rule, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will have to perform an analysis and weigh the costs based on already-available scientific and commercial data of protecting wildlife before adding an endangered species to their list.

The Trump administration is finalizing a devastating rollback that will gut the Endangered Species Act.

"With extinction rates skyrocketing globally and the impacts of climate change on vulnerable wildlife populations unknown, we need a strong, vigorous [Endangered Species Act], not a weaker one", she said. That animal depends on spring snowpack for mating.

Other changes include ending blanket protections for species newly listed as threatened and a revision that conservation groups say could block officials from considering the impact on wildlife from climate change, a major and growing threat to many species.

US Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director Gary Frazer said they won't speculate that a species could be negatively impacted.


This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Earthjustice, an environmental legal group, also noted the act's popularity, citing research conducted with a polling firm showing that 53% of Americans "strongly support" the act and 37% "somewhat support the act".

"The ESA directs that determinations to add or remove a species from the lists of threatened or endangered species be based exclusively on the best available scientific and commercial information, and these will remain the only criteria on which listing determinations will be based", Bernhardt said.

Pushing back against the criticism, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and other administration officials contend the changes improve efficiency of oversight while continuing to protect rare species.

"The Trump administration's latest attempt to sink Endangered Species Act protections for endangered whales, sea turtles and dolphins will be resisted by the American people", said Turtle Island Restoration Network Executive Director Todd Steiner.

Conservation groups and attorneys general of several states including California and MA had been critical of the changes first proposed previous year, saying they were in violation of the objective of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Other changes address designation of critical habitat with the goal of reducing "the potential for additional regulatory burden that results from a designation when a species is not present in an area". Unfortunately, the Trump administration's new rule makes it nearly impossible to designate habitat that is not inhabited now but likely will be in the future due to climate change. "We'll see the Trump administration in court about it", Drew Caputo, Earthjustice vice president of litigation for lands, wildlife, and oceans. said in a statement. In other words, endangered species often conflict with development and when they do the rule goes in favor of the species, that would change. "They don't do well with any human disturbance of their habitat, but that isn't economically viable in today's world, their habitat has lots of human uses that we're not going to give up". "In the four decades since the Endangered Species Act became law, 99% of species protected under the Endangered Species Act have not perished".

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