10 Endangered Species Especially Threatened by the Trump Administration
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.
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As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
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By Cathy Cassata
With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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