Trump Administration Rolls Back Endangered Species Protections
“The Endangered Species Act works; our communities—both natural and human—have reaped the benefits. This safety net must be preserved.”
The Trump administration rolled out sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act on Monday, weakening protections for threatened species and allowing authorities to ignore the impact of climate change on wildlife.
Critics argue the rollback represents an attempt by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to prioritize fossil fuel and agribusiness profits over the public interest. One of its major provisions involves allowing the government to estimate the economic cost of protecting a species, allowing industry to override animal protections if they are deemed too expensive.
Critics, such as Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity conservation group, argue the rule is a cynical effort to inflate the cost of protecting species for the benefit of extractive industries.
Not only does Bernhardt hold the single most conflicts of interest of any cabinet member in the Trump administration, but he lobbied against the specific regulation in question during his time as a lobbyist for the oil, gas and agribusiness industries.
New York Times investigations have revealed that Bernhardt personally directed policies to weaken protections on endangered animals and has blocked scientific reports on the danger of pesticides. Bernhardt has been heavily involved with the offering of public lands (almost the size of South Carolina) for oil and gas leasing, and repealed national monument regulations for the sake of industrial development.
The news also comes only months after a landmark study by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (IPBES) found that one million animal species are currently threatened with extinction. The study’s 310 contributing authors urged transformative change as a necessity to avert irreversible damage to the biosphere.
Environmentalist Groups Pledge To Fight Back
Supporters of the act note its marked success in protecting a diverse range of wildlife.
“The Endangered Species Act is credited with helping save the bald eagle, California condor and scores of other animals and plants from extinction since President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1973,” explained the Associated Press. “The Endangered Species Act currently protects more than 1,600 species in the United States and its territories.”
While environmental groups were incensed by the latest ecological rollback under the climate change-denying Trump administration, numerous organizations pledged to fight the ruling in court.
“We’ll fight the Trump administration in court to block this rewrite, which only serves the oil industry and other polluters who see endangered species as pesky inconveniences,” said Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Undermining this popular and successful law is a major step in the wrong direction as we face the increasing challenges of climate change and its effects on wildlife,” said Lena Moffitt, director of Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. “The Endangered Species Act works; our communities—both natural and human—have reaped the benefits. This safety net must be preserved.”