10 Endangered Species Especially Threatened by the Trump Administration
A red wolf. Taya Johnston / iStock / Getty Images
EcoWatch has long documented attempts by the Trump administration’s Interior Department to weaken Endangered Species Act protections, but what does that mean for individual species? That is the question the Endangered Species Coalition set out to answer in a new report, which outlines how President Donald Trump’s proposed policies could impact 10 vulnerable animal species.
“The Interior Department under President Trump has been especially cozy with the industries that are harming the very wildlife the Department is supposed to protect,” Endangered Species Coalition Executive Director Leda Huta told the Natural Resources Defense Council. “If the administration has its way, the new regulations will put these species on a fast track to extinction.”
The report, published Tuesday, looks at how the administration’s proposed weakening of the Endangered Species Act, as well as existing policies, would harm the 10 species. The featured animals were chosen by a group of scientists from a pool of nominations submitted by Endangered Species Coalition member groups. Here is just some of the amazing biodiversity now at risk.
1. California Condor
The California condor is the largest land bird in North America, with a wingspan stretching 10 feet. It is also critically endangered, with fewer than 300 left in the wild. The greatest cause of death for the condor in the wild is lead poisoning from tainted carrion, which kills more condors than all other causes combined. That is why it is so catastrophic that former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rolled back an Obama-era rule banning lead ammunition in condor habitat.
2. Leatherback and Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Both of these migratory sea turtles are extremely vulnerable to climate change and could lose their nesting grounds to sea level rise and storm surges. However, new language around climate change proposed by the Interior Department could make it harder to protect habitat threatened by it. One provision would allow other agencies to take actions in areas that the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded will be lost to climate change anyway without consulting the agency responsible for protecting endangered species.
3. Red Wolves
Red wolves are extremely endangered. Less than 30 remain in their only wild habitat in North Carolina. But a new regulation could allow for them to be delisted all together on the basis of new information, even though scientists have yet to make any conclusive determinations about their genetics.
The hellbender, a type of salamander, is the largest amphibian outside of Asia. It is a major health indicator for the streams it lives in, since its health suffers in polluted water. It is under consideration for endangered species status, but a regulation allowing officials to consider economic as well as scientific factors could mean that it does not make it onto the list. Industries like logging, mining and fossil fuel extraction might argue it would cost them too much not to pollute streams.
Giraffes have lost 30 percent of their population in 30 years, but the Trump administration has ignored a petition to afford them endangered species protections. Instead, Zinke’s Interior Department has created an International Wildlife Conservation Council that promotes trophy hunting, putting large African mammals like giraffes further at risk.
6. Humboldt Marten
Humboldt martens were believed extinct until 1996, and now there are fewer than 400 left in the wild. But the Trump administration only proposed listing them under the Endangered Species Act when the court ordered them to, and then proposed listing them only as threatened. Threatened and endangered species used to receive the same protections under the act, but the Trump administration has proposed to change this, meaning the rare mammal might not get the protections it needs to survive.
7. Rusty Patched Bumble Bee
This bee was the first to be listed as endangered after it disappeared from nearly 90 percent of its historic range. But new administration regulations would prioritize protecting habitat that species currently occupy, meaning it would be harder to protect the bee’s historic range in order to help it recover.
8. West Indian Manatee
The West Indian manatee is especially threatened by the rise in red tides, algae blooms and pollution, but the Trump administration has downgraded them from endangered to threatened. Manatees also live in scattered populations throughout their range, but new regulations would mean that an impact to an endangered or threatened species only has to be considered if it occurs throughout the animals’ range, so a pollutant impacting one population pocket but not another would not be considered.
9. San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat
These four-inch, hopping rodents get all of their moisture from certain plants and have their reproduction stimulated by certain amounts of green vegetation. This balance is thrown off by human development in their Southern California habitat, and Trump administration regulations that would reduce the amount of communication required between agencies ahead of new developments like roads could further throw them off balance.
10. Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
This migratory bird species is declining due to habitat loss and was listed as endangered in 2014. However, its critical habitat hasn’t been designated yet, and a separate campaign is underway to delist it all together. A new Trump administration rule would facilitate this by allowing species to be delisted before meeting all the goals in their recovery plans.