The Trump administration has announced sweeping changes to the way that the Endangered Species Act is applied, putting threatened species at more risk than ever.
For over five decades, the landmark conservation law has protected endangered species such as the humpback whale, the whooping crane, and the bald eagle. Introduced in 1973, it has aimed to provide a framework to conserve and protect those endangered species and their habitats, preventing extinction.
It has been 99 percent effective at preventing the extinction of listed species and has always had overwhelming bipartisan public support.
Trump Administration Wants to Make it Harder to Protect Wildlife
But now, the Trump administration has significantly weakened the law and made it harder to protect wildlife from multiple threats posed by climate change, and economic growth and development.
Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt is behind these new regulations intended to weaken the Endangered Species Act. He is a former lobbyist for the oil and gas industries, and also authored an op-ed arguing against the Endangered Species Act last year.
Changes Make it Easier to Remove Protections, Prohibits Considering Climate Change
The changes make it easier to remove a species from the endangered list. They will also weaken the protections for species listed as “threatened,” which means that the species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.
New rules also prohibit considering the impact of climate change on whether to list a species as endangered. This will prevent protections for species that are impacted by things like melting ice caps, or sea levels rising.
Perhaps the most shocking of the changes, though, is that regulators will now be allowed to conduct economic assessments when deciding whether or not a species needs protection.
That means that they can assess the cost of saving a species, and could use estimated lost revenue from prohibiting gas drilling in a critical habitat to determine if the species in that habitat should be protected.
Paving the Way for Disastrous Effects
For animals at risk of extinction, this could prove devastating.
These new revisions are clearly paving the way for actions that will have disastrous effects on both the environment and threatened species populations, like oil and gas drilling, mining, logging, and development in areas where protected species live.