By Lauren Rearick
On Monday, August 12, the Trump administration announced a number of intended revisions to the Endangered Species Act, which the U.S. has followed since 1973, including a change in protection for animals listed as threatened, the Wall Street Journal reported. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently lists 319 species as threatened, including sea otters, grizzly and polar bears, leopards, lions, and most types of salmon.
Under the previous law, which gave protection to endangered animals and wildlife in the U.S. by classifying certain species as being endangered or threatened, threatened species were protected with the same measure as endangered animals. Trump’s revisions would change that, which, as The New York Times pointed out, could result in threatened species becoming endangered.
Moreover, the administration’s changes would allow the U.S. Fish and Wild Service and the Marine Fisheries Service to consider cost when deciding whether an animal should be considered endangered or threatened, a new rule that conservation organizations like Earthjustice and the National Audubon Society say could detrimentally weaken the Endangered Species Act, a law that is supported by 80 percent of Americans.
“As a whole, the rule changes are political, unwise, and will only increase litigation,” Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president for conservation policy at the National Audubon Society, said in an online statement provided to MTV News. “These damaging new rules will weaken protections for imperiled species and include language that is wholly contrary to the law.”
Defenders of Wildlife, a nonprofit conservation organization, expressed a similar concern in an online statement shared with MTV News, adding that the U.S. is facing “a sixth extinction crisis,” that could only be worsened by Trump’s new ruling. “Instead of undercutting the Endangered Species Act and other bedrock environmental laws, we should be strengthening these laws to improve their effectiveness for people and wildlife,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, said. “The sweeping changes made in these new regulations, however, will diminish the effectiveness of the Act and further imperil species already on the brink of extinction.”
Although the proposed changes do not go into effect for 30 days and won’t be applied to animals already classified as endangered or threatened, the World Wildlife Fund shared their concern for what the ruling could mean for the future. “The changes disregard decades of evidence proving the Endangered Species Act’s effectiveness in conserving threatened wildlife and downplay the profound threat of climate-driven extinction,” Leigh Henry, WWF's Director of Wildlife Policy, said. “The US Endangered Species Act has been a model for conservation efforts globally and weakening this effective law hamstrings US ability to help save species from extinction.”
The Associated Press reported that conservation organizations and attorney generals from at least ten states, including Massachusetts, California, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, have threatened to take legal action against the proposed revisions.