Zoe Stratos | Staff Columnist
Established in 1973 by President Nixon, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 remained largely untouched for 46 years; that was until the Trump administration proposed significant changes on Aug 12.
Famously known for saving the nearly extinct bald eagle population, the Endangered Species Act provides protections for around 1,600 different plant and animal species, their habitats and other conservation projects. The act also places blocks on companies and citizens threatening to harm them.
Major changes to the act include consideration of economic costs to protect plant and animal species instead of immediate action, as well as removing blanket protections for newly added species to the threatened list. With the decision-making process lengthened, it becomes a win for drilling and mining companies ready to interfere with a habitat due to their already accumulated money. Nature’s inability to generate revenue to protect itself calls for the support of the government and other conservation organizations.
Plus, putting a price tag on environmental protections would only deter politicians from saving a species. This hesitancy could eventually cause the destruction of thousands of threatened and endangered species, as well as our trees, water and even the air.
The most troubling is the blind eye the government could develop as climate change continues to threaten the Earth. Although vague and seemingly simple, the future consequences of environmental changes are now reviewed on a case-by-case basis. With neglect for the future, climate change and other threats could potentially persist unchecked, despite scientists’ warnings
On top of everything, the United Nations recently released a report warning that nearly 1 million plant and animal species will face global extinction in the future due to human interference, climate change and lesser threats — a species loss record.
Overall, the revisions to the act are potentially devastating to the already nearly extinct or threatened wildlife on the list. The designation’s entire goal is to place hunting, trapping and killing blocks on animals to prevent their inevitable extinction. It is counterintuitive to remove these blanket protections; it goes against everything President Nixon put in place 46 years ago.
However, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt defends the decision arguing that the changes would improve the efficiency of the act.
“The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal — recovery of our rarest species,” he said in a statement. “An effectively administered act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation.”
As a previous oil industry lobbyist, Bernhardt’s support for the changes is unsurprising and obviously biased. Placing blocks on protections for wildlife only increases access for drilling, logging and other companies to harm or destroy habitats. Not only this, but Bernhardt criticized the Endangered Species Act in an op-ed explaining how it destroyed opportunities for these companies to increase their revenues. Similarly, President Trump himself is a world-renowned businessman in support of these big businesses.
Many conservation groups including Earthjustice have been commenting on the changes in statements.
“This effort to gut protections for endangered and threatened species has the same two features of most Trump administration actions: it’s a gift to industry, and it’s illegal,” said Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation for land, wildlife and oceans at Earthjustice.
The Trump administration has shown no intention of revising their proposed rewrite of the act set to be implemented sometime this month; however, conservation groups, like Earthjustice, aim to negotiate — and eventually sue — once it is passed into law.