Opinion: Overhaul of Endangered Species Act is an attack on Midwest wildlife
The Trump administration just rammed through new regulations that would cripple the Endangered Species Act’s power to save imperiled wildlife in the Midwest and across the nation.
If these shortsighted regulations stand, already endangered species like lynx and Indiana bats will be devastated as crucial protections are undermined. Others, like Michigan’s moose and monarch butterflies, will face huge obstacles to getting the critical safeguards they need to survive our dramatically changing climate.
This critical conservation law has saved 99% of the hundreds of animals and plants under its protection from going extinct. But now, essential parts of the Endangered Species Act have been severely weakened.
This is what happens when political appointees with an anti-science agenda are allowed to rewrite conservation policy.
I have worked to protect America’s most imperiled wildlife for nearly 15 years. In that time, I have never seen such brazen political maneuvering and shameless disregard for science.
The most damaging changes Trump officials made to this bedrock law focus on the way imperiled plants and animals are listed and protected under the Act.
Rather than basing the decision to protect a species solely on science, the economic and political impacts from the listing would receive equal or even greater consideration.
Under the new regulations, every proposed listing would be delayed or buried under a mountain of red tape and an endless stream of cost-benefit analyses and exemptions.
The changes are clearly intended to weaken protections for species teetering on the brink of extinction. They’ll allow political considerations to trump scientific principals while reducing the protection of the natural systems upon which the species depends.
Our magnificent Midwest moose offer an example of just how damaging the new regulations will be. Moose have been under review for listing under the Endangered Species Act since 2016. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has dragged its feet to avoid protecting this charismatic, native animal.
Moose have adapted to the bone-chilling cold of the Northwoods. But as winter temperatures continue to rise because of climate change, moose overheat under their thick coats. This leads to malnutrition and lowers their immune systems.
Warmer temperatures also increase the prevalence of ticks. Moose have been found with thousands of ticks sucking the life out of them because, with warmer winters, ticks aren’t dying off.
But under the new regulations, officials could be blocked from even considering climate-related threats when looking at endangered species listings, despite those being some of the worst threats to species like moose. And under the new rules, their habitat will likely get no protection.
The reason for the changes is clear -- to make it easier for special interests like the timber industry, oil and gas companies and developers to mow down, excavate and build on our wild lands and spoil our clean air and water.
These wrongheaded regulations will make it much harder to protect America’s wildlife. But that won’t deter us from working to preserve the nation’s wild heritage. The White House doesn’t get it, but the rest of us know preventing extinction is the right thing to do.
Collette Adkins is carnivore conservation director and senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. She is based in Minneapolis.