Trump’s ESA Rollbacks

By
Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Under Trump’s new ESA revisions, the Northern Spotted Owl would not have received the protections it has today.

In 1813, John James Audubon stood in amazement. The sky darkened as 60 million passenger pigeons blocked out the noonday sun. And this was only the start. The first group was followed by a larger flock, so many that they continued to fly over for three straight days. Modern estimates put the bird’s population around three billion. Less than 100 years later, in 1900, a boy in Ohio killed the last wild passenger pigeon with his shotgun. Something almost unthinkable occurred—life was extinguished permanently—and only in its absence did we realize what we had lost.

The Endangered Species Act was created to stop this tragedy from ever occurring again. And it has been remarkably successful. Of all the species that have been listed, over 99% have been prevented from going extinct. Today, we have gray wolves, black footed ferrets, manatees, and whooping cranes (to name just a few) because of the Act.

The Trump Administration is working to finalize new rules that will throw the Act into jeopardy. And since Trump has hired a band of cartoon supervillains who have spent their careers trying to dismantle the environmental laws that they are now obligated to enforce, they know what they are doing. The attack on the ESA is surgical. Here’s what it includes:

  • Allow the consideration of economics, not just science, in listing decisions.
  • Cuts automatic protections for “threatened” species and encourages a process that will prioritize politics in conservation decisions.
  • Undermines the ability to consider the impact of climate change on species by changing the definition of “foreseeable.”

And so on.

What’s more, the rulemaking petition is cowardly. The Trump Administration understands that it can’t gut the ESA through Congress. The law receives broad public support and all attempts to substantially weaken the ESA legislatively has floundered and failed—even when Reagan was president. So instead of going through Congress, Trump is attempting to rewrite the rules that implement the law. Sad!