Federal government finalizes changes to weaken Endangered Species Act

By on August 12, 2019 with 16 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

In the past two years, our federal government has waged war against the Endangered Species Act, the bedrock law that protects endangered and threatened animal species and their habitats. Today, despite our hopes that it would take the steps necessary to enforce our nation’s many animal protection laws, the Trump Administration dealt a critical blow to wildlife protection, finalizing rules to significantly weaken the Endangered Species Act and make it harder to achieve federal protections for endangered and threatened species.

The finalization of these rules empowers the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to block vital and necessary conservation measures to protect species threatened with extinction. The rules are intended to remove prohibitions on the consideration of possible economic impacts when listing a species as endangered or threatened, privileging economic and political considerations above conservation imperatives in deliberations concerning listing a species under the Act. They also promise to establish additional roadblocks to securing comprehensive protections for threatened species, while making it much easier to remove species from the ESA, even without evidence that species recovery might not yet be complete.

The ESA has been historically successful in its facilitation of collaboration among federal, state, tribal and local officials to protect vulnerable species. However, the finalized rules package shifts focus away from federal management of imperiled species. Instead, it gives states and local governments substantial power over managing species that would otherwise be protected by the Endangered Species Act. This is a great danger.

Unfortunately, the record of the states in endangered species protection is not as good as one could hope. Many states lack the financial resources to take on endangered species protection, and a large number lack laws to protect all of the federally-listed endangered or threatened species within their boundaries. Still worse is the fact that a number of key states do not prioritize wildlife protection with sincerity or fairness. We saw this lack of good stewardship when gray wolves and grizzly bears lost federal ESA protections in Wyoming and the state promptly declared trophy hunting seasons on these animals.

Together, the new rules comprise the largest regulatory revision to the Endangered Species Act in decades. It amounts to a “death-by-a-thousand-cuts” approach, and aims to extinguish one of the country’s most effective statutes, on which the survival of so many wildlife species depends. The ESA has saved more than 99 percent of listed species from going extinct, and if it is weakened it will be much more difficult to ensure that threatened and endangered animals, including species like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear and African lions and elephants, do not go extinct.

This move really cuts against the grain, because it is clear that the American public strongly supports the ESA. A 2015 poll by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of Americans, including 82 percent of self-described conservatives, support upholding the ESA. Other studies, such as the study by Hart Research Associates in 2016, found that 70 percent of Americans oppose removing ESA protections from iconic, threatened species such as the gray wolf. And if that wasn’t enough to show how deep support for the ESA runs in the American consciousness—over 800,000 comments were submitted in opposition to these rules. It’s no consolation that the administration has no plan to apply the regulations retroactively to previous decisions concerning species currently protected under the ESA. It spells doom for imperiled species from here on, and that’s why we are outraged.

Instead of listening to the collective voice of these 800,000 Americans—the FWS and NMFS have decided today to side with special interest groups determined to eliminate protections for our nation’s beloved wildlife, all to make economic and development ventures more profitable. It’s a shameful move, one that will have far reaching ramifications for years to come, and one that we must continue to oppose.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Michele O'Brien says:

    I know many who read this blog, myself included, sent comments regarding the ESA and are very upset with the decisons being made.

    • Teresa Gwyn says:

      I’m furious

    • Teresa Gwyn says:

      What can I do to help?
      Send emails and letters in opposition?
      I’m willing to commit to whatever can
      Please give me some ideas. The decisions today are horrific, infuriating and sickening. Please tell us what can we do?

    • Gina says:

      Yes , I am!! I just don’t think sweat and WHY?!?! What aren’t we continuing to support these innocent animals????

  2. Patricia Zasadny says:

    Wrote to my local newspaper with a letter to the editor regarding this decision. We must let senators know this cannot take place.

  3. Jane Collins says:

    Again the voice of Americans mean nothing. 800,000 spoke for the ESA, ignored. 1.8 million for gray wolves, ignored. Climate conditions, ignored. For Trump and his administration, when existence in Earth ceases , money will be useless. Even the rich and powerful will not escape extinction.

  4. Teresa Gwyn says:

    Im so furious
    That vile man is relentless
    Why can’t he just leave animals alone at least. Horrific

  5. Grace Neff says:

    I believe every young person who is old enough to vote should register now and vote to help keep this Administration from destroying everything that makes this planet livable. You are the ones who will have to live with every bad decision being made.

  6. Denise Mauriello says:

    I believe we have to more not less. This precious animals that God gave us to watch over. I hope this will change.

  7. Sue says:

    This is an unbelievable betrayal of nature. I HATE Trump and can only hope that he becomes the one who is hunted just like these poor animals.
    Trump is the cruelest most uncaring person ever.

  8. Nancy Arline Dunlap says:

    This is an outrage! I hold the Trump administration and the violaters going along with hum. You are a disgrace to our country and the welfare of the environment and all living creatures in it.

  9. rebecca Richardson says:

    Outraged, I demand that the ESA stop calling open season on our precious creatures. You are in bed with the big game hunters and ranchers, selfish killers who want to mount bear heads on walls and brag about it, and ranchers who don’t want to spend the money to protect herds. Disgusting. Who’s paying you off? What about the interests of the rest of us? Those who would preserve and protect our God-given gifts??? All you (Trump) want to do is destroy, hurt, maim, and kill. What have you created for the rest of us, Trump? and Toadies? Nothing. All you do is steal from the citizens of this nation, and I am sick with grief.

    • Rebecca Richardson says:

      Outraged at the rollback on protections of precious species, I demand that ESA stop calling open season on bears, wolves, and other creatures, at the behest of special interests, hunters and ranchers. What about the interests of the rest of us? Those who would preserve and protect our God-given natural gifts?? This rollback is but one more example of the ways in which this Administration seeks to destroy, hurt, maim, and kill living things, in essence stealing from the citizens of this nation, and I am sick with grief.

  10. Keith lynskey says:

    I hope the Democratic candidates make this an issue and commit to reversing this ruling if elected.

  11. Marion Glennon says:

    What else can the people do to combat this action of weakening the ESA? Obviously the Administration we have now is only interested in the bottom line! I, as well as a majority of Americans, are not happy to see what is happening to the wildlife that this will effect! I know we have to vote Trump and his Republican friends out of office ASAP!

  12. Alex at Our Endangered World says:

    The Administration we have now is only interested in the bottom line! I, as well as a majority of Americans, are not happy to see what is happening to the wildlife that this will affect

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