Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Trump Admin Guts Endangered Species Act in the Midst of Climate Crisis and Biodiversity Loss

Politics
Trump Admin Guts Endangered Species Act in the Midst of Climate Crisis and Biodiversity Loss
A bald eagle spreads its wings in Homer, Alaska. Keren Su / Stone / Getty Images Plus

The Trump administration announced sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act Monday in a move that could make it harder to protect plants and animals from the climate crisis, The New York Times reported.


The changes would make it easier to remove species from the list, end the blanket rule giving threatened species the same protections as endangered ones, allow regulators to assess the economic impacts of protecting a species and give the government major leeway in how it interprets the phrase "foreseeable future." This last change is relevant to species threatened by the climate crisis, since many of its effects may be decades away.

Interior Secretary and former energy lobbyist David Bernhardt claimed the changes would increase transparency.

"The act's effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation," he said in a statement reported by The New York Times.

But conservation groups disagreed. They pointed to a major biodiversity study released this spring warning that one million species could go extinct due to human activity.

"We're facing an extinction crisis, and the administration is placing industry needs above the needs of our natural heritage," Natural Resources Defense Council Nature Program legal director Rebecca Riley said in a statement.

The Endangered Species Act has saved 99 percent of listed species from extinction, according to HuffPost. Notable successes include the bald eagle, Yellowstone grizzly bear and humpback whale, but scientists warn that the new rules could prevent the act from performing similar rescues in the future. Take the North American wolverine, which the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is deciding whether or not to protect. The cold-loving mammal could lose a third of its U.S. range by 2050 and two thirds before 2100 due to rising temperatures, The Guardian reported.

"The current science suggests that a warming climate is most likely going to have an adverse impact on the wolverine," Jeff Copeland, a retired Forest Service biologist who now works with the Wolverine Foundation, told The Guardian. "That's the debate that needed to happen."

But, because of the Trump administration's changes to the interpretation of "foreseeable future," it likely won't.

Environmental groups are also concerned by the removal of language saying protection decisions must be made "without reference to possible economic or other impacts of determination."

FWS assistant director for endangered species Gary Frazer told The New York Times that the language was only being removed to allow economic impact assessments to be conducted for informational reasons. He said they would not inform protection decisions.

But conservation groups mistrusted the language change. The only reason for writing economic impact reports, Obama-era Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes told HuffPost, is to "poison the well and obtain a sort of public reaction to the listing."

Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation for lands, wildlife and oceans at Earthjustice, agreed the language removal was dangerous.

"There can be economic costs to protecting endangered species," Caputo told The New York Times. "If we make decisions based on short-term economic costs, we're going to have a whole lot more extinct species."

Earthjustice has already promised to sue over the changes, according to HuffPost, as have Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

"I know that gutting the Endangered Species Act sounds like a plan from a cartoon villain, not the work of the president of the United States," Healey said during a press call reported by HuffPost. "But unfortunately that's what we're dealing with today."

Eat Just's cell-based chicken nugget is now served at Singapore restaurant 1880. Eat Just, Inc.

At a time of impending global food scarcity, cell-based meats and seafood have been heralded as the future of food.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

New Zealand sea lions are an endangered species and one of the rarest species of sea lions in the world. Art Wolfe / Photodisc / Getty Images

One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.

Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending


piyaset / iStock / Getty Images Plus

In an alarming new study, scientists found that climate change is already harming children's diets.

Read More Show Less
Wildfires within the Arctic Circle in Alaska on June 4, 2020. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data processed by Pierre Markuse. CC BY 2.0

By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.

Earth had its second-warmest year on record in 2020, just 0.02 degrees Celsius (0.04°F) behind the record set in 2016, and 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.76°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA reported January 14.

Read More Show Less

In December of 1924, the heads of all the major lightbulb manufacturers across the world met in Geneva to concoct a sinister plan. Their talks outlined limits on how long all of their lightbulbs would last. The idea is that if their bulbs failed quickly customers would have to buy more of their product. In this video, we're going to unpack this idea of purposefully creating inferior products to drive sales, a symptom of late-stage capitalism that has since been coined planned obsolescence. And as we'll see, this obsolescence can have drastic consequences on our wallets, waste streams, and even our climate.

Read More Show Less