Will Endangered Animals Stay That Way Under Trump?

Aaron Viles, Senior Grassroots Organizer, Care2.com

For those of us who hold the environment dear, the first few weeks of the Trump administration have brought much fear and uncertainty. Just today the Washington Post reported a Senate hearing to “modernize the Endangered Species Act, unfolded Wednesday just as supporters of the law had feared, with round after round of criticism from Republican lawmakers.”

From muzzling EPA scientists to attempting to reverse hard-fought climate and clean water victories, like the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, it’s clear that protecting our natural world doesn’t rank high on President Trump’s priority list.

The previous Congress tried an astonishing 250 times to weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA) through a host of legislative tricks and processes, but the Obama White House always served as a backstop. With President Obama and his respect for science out of the way, the future of efforts to protect wildlife looks bleak.

Our climate-denier-in-chief is populating his cabinet with fellow science-disputing voices that disregard and downplay the existential threat of global warming. The former CEO of Exxonmobil is now our Secretary of State, the former Governor of Texas who pledged to dismantle the Department of Energy will soon lead it, and a handmaiden of oil and gas who sued the EPA over a dozen times is poised to assume leadership of our national efforts for cleaner air, water, and a stable climate.

President Trump is determined to appoint an axis of climate evil to put the brakes on solid, determined progress on climate change under President Obama, and that’s a crying shame.

Whether the President accepts it or not, the climate is changing, and it is impacting habitats and animal species throughout the nation, from the tundra and sea ice of Alaska to the coastal marshes of the Gulf of Mexico. These changes are presenting huge challenges to species such as polar bears, walruses, and green and loggerhead sea turtles.

The ESA has worked for over 40 years to protect U.S. wildlife, and its role is becoming more critical than ever. Unfortunately, those in Congress most vocal about revising the ESA are not doing so to meet the new threats of a changing climate, but instead to simply weaken the act and water down its ability to protect habitat and vulnerable species.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop has said he “would love to invalidate” the law. Other Republican lawmakers would like to limit logging restrictions under the act, stop lawsuits to protect species, or force one species off the list for every species added to the list.

Perhaps the most egregious effort to weaken the act is the “Listing Reform Act,” which Pete Olson (R-TX) newly introduced and would for the first time force economic impacts to be considered when agencies decide whether to add threatened species to the list. The deform bill would also allow agencies to ignore legal and scientific petitions to protect species and force them to prioritize delisting species as opposed to adding species to ESA protection.

The Care2 community stands ready to defend our environmental progress and the legislative tools that have protected iconic species such as the bald eagle, the gray wolf, the brown pelican and the American alligator. Already, over 130,000 of our members have signed on in support of a Care2 petition to defend the ESA under Trump.

Former presidents have championed environmental progress, including President Roosevelt, who created many of the conservation tools our government still relies upon, and President Nixon, who signed the ESA into law and created the EPA. President Obama protected wide swaths of important habitat. The environmental legacy of our country is proudly bipartisan.

President Trump must embrace that legacy and add to it through efforts to protect species from the impacts of climate change. If he choses not to, the Care2 community stands ready to show him what it looks like when people who care take action together.