The Endangered Species Act is Being Gutted

A California Condor. Federal and State protection laws have allowed this bird to come back from the brink of extinction. At one point there were only 23 birds in the world. Now there are over 400.

You may or may not have heard the news, but important changes are being made to the Endangered Species Act by the Trump administration and they will make it even harder for the creatures this act is supposed to protect.

The Endangered Species act was first enacted in 1973 by President Nixon. While it was not the first piece of Federal legislation that addressed the need the conserve endangered populations, it has been the most effective. Since becoming law, 99% of the species that have gained protections have been able to thwart extinction. Going into the future, this may not continue to be the case.

What are the changes?

There are changes to section 4 and section 7 of the act. Section 4 concerns the listing, delisting and reclassification of species, while section 7 address consultations between agencies.

The changes will include :

  • No longer giving blanket protections to animals listed as Threatened, even though this designation is only one step above endangered. A species is deemed to be threatened is "likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range ."

  • Even the term "foreseeable future" is being changed and will be defined on a case by case basis.

  • Economic costs will now be calculated and submitted, despite Congress mandating that economic factors not be used to determine whether a species is added to the list.

  • It will be easier to exempt critical habitats from protections.

  • There will be a 60-day turn around for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to respond about determination about proposed activities that could harm species or their habitat

  • The definition of "adverse modification" will not only consider effects to a whole habitat, versus a smaller section.

  • The Service and other agencies will now be able to do a expedited review of conservation actions.

While these may not all sound bad on paper, they can easily turn into a disaster for the act and the species it seeks to protect. With shortened turn around times, details may easily be overlooked. The potential to expand critical habitats that are exempted from protections is also very dangerous. It is not enough to only protect a species. You must also protect the environment that it lives in as well. Protection should be viewed through a holistic lens and the changes to the Environmental Species Act makes this increasingly harder.

Although these changes are set to come into affect in September, several state Attorney Generals and law organizations plan to sue the Trump administration over the legality of these changes.

How do I feel about it, you ask?

I think this is terrible. It is another attempt to put industry and money above the good of the species that inhabit this planet. While disguised as a way to streamline processes, I view these actions as a way to gloss over issues. I also see these revisions as a way for industries to say it will be too expensive to change what they are doing to save critical habitat or an endangered, or especially a threatened species. There are some things that are more important than money and I think any form of life fits the bill.

They only way to stop these actions, as a whole, is to VOTE in new leadership. As long as people continue to vote for politicians who care more about which industry lobby is willing to pay the most rather than politicians doing what's best for people, the planet and the millions of other species that live here, we will continue to see the crumbling of our global society.

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