Trump Administration v The ESA

September 18, 2019

The Endangered Species Act was implemented in 1973 by President Richard Nixon. As said in the name, the act focuses on protecting and preserving endangered species. It can today be credited with saving populations of the California condor, grizzly bear, northern gray wolf, and even the American bald eagle–a symbol of the country. “It protects more than 1,600 plant and animal species and 99% of the species placed on the endangered list have not gone extinct,” according to Jeremy Bruskotter from the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University.

This crucial conservation act could be under jeopardy, however, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration have both announced that the government will now take economic factors into account before deciding if a species can be classified as endangered or not. Professionals have stated that this is ridiculous. Fruita Monument science teacher Jeffrey Miller states that, “from an environmental science point, this is not a good idea.” Miller believes that when Trump’s term is looked back upon, he will be seen as the worst president for the environment. While Trump is not the first person to try to change the ESA, with both George W. and Ronald Reagan having tried in the past, he is definitely the most adamant about it.

Thomas Lovejoy, who has written three books regarding the effects of climate change on endangered species, told TIME magazine that, “the impacts of climate change and the fingerprints of climate change can be seen in nature wherever you look. It’s really egregious to ignore it.” 

Many agree with Lovejoy, and see these changes in the ESA to be a threat to endangered species. It could even go as far as to push more species to extinction, undermining the entire purpose of the act. Fruita junior Kaleigh Cruickshank says, “the economic factors shouldn’t matter, the animals should matter more. That’s kind of the point of the act: to save animals, not save money.”

The changes are set to go into play in September, but many are already pushing to stop this. “The state Attorneys General of California and Massachucetts have already announced plans to sue the Trump Administration over the changes, and others are expected to follow,” according to TIME. 

If the changes are passed into law, conservationists may breathe a small breath of relief due to the fact that protections already put in place for species will not be affected. These rules will apply only to newly-discovered endangered or threatened species. However, species classified as “threatened,” which is very close to “endangered,” will no longer receive the same protections. Instead, the protection they get will be determined case-by-case, meaning it will differ depending on the species.

Everyone–those pushing for the act and those fighting it–will be holding their breath in the upcoming months as the Endangered Species Act is debated. Economists and conservationists alike will no doubt continue to fight for years to come, but the outcome of this particular argument will undoubtedly affect millions of other species, for good or bad.

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