For the list of irreversible harms inflicted by the Trump administration: the extinction of species.
As the Trump administration continues to roll back America’s commitment to conservation, we should fear that it will succeed in turning the federal government away from its responsibility to protect species from extinction. Recently, the administration denied petitions to list 25 wildlife species as endangered.
The administration isn’t just refusing to grant protected status to endangered species; it’s actively attempting to remove species from the endangered-species list.
The Trump administration announced Thursday that it’s moving to strike the Canada lynx from the endangered-species list, despite a 2016 assessment concluding the species will die out in its northern range by the end of the century without federal protection.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had initially said it was “very unlikely” that resident lynx populations would survive until 2100 “in all of the geographic units that currently support them.” The assessment in the waning weeks of the Obama administration had warned that “resiliency will be substantially diminished because of reduced population sizes and distributions.”
In October, the Trump administration came to a somewhat different conclusion. It expressed confidence the animals would survive through 2050 — though officials said they could not be certain of the lynx’s fate in its sprawling range across Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Colorado, Idaho and Washington.
President Trump’s administration is attacking the concept of endangered species as a valid concern for our federal government altogether.
As Kathleen Harnett-White, who is a Senate-vote away from becoming the administration’s chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, put it, the Endangered Species Act is “economically harmful” and a “formidable obstacle to development.” So perhaps it should not have come as a surprise when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that he would reopen areas of sage grouse habitat to mining and oil and gas leasing. Zinke, along with the USDA Forest Service, also plans to revisit the state-federal sage grouse conservation plans that successfully led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide not to list the grouse as threatened or endangered.
Never mind that we have the Endangered Species Act, or ESA, to thank for the survival of species like bald eagles, grizzly bears, and gray whales.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been one of the most effective tools used to protect America’s perilously declining wildlife and has helped prevent the extinction of 99 percent of the species under its protection. The 1973 law provides a framework for using science to guide management and reduce the threats of development to threatened species. It has helped Americans be good stewards of our natural heritage for future generations.
Between Zinke and Hartnett-White, whose confirmation seems inevitable, we can expect more and more land to be opened to exploitation—and fewer and fewer endangered species to be protected.