The Endangered Species Act helped to save the bald eagle, a national symbol of strength and power. Now the Trump administration is working with congressional Republicans to gut the law.
The Trump administration is trying to gut the law that was key to saving the bald eagle and other endangered species.
Scandal-plagued Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act that would effectively undermine the entire basis of the law. Zinke's changes would also eventually put several endangered species at risk of extinction.
Use of the pesticide DDT coupled with other practices led to the bald eagle nearing extinction. Passage of the Endangered Species Act led to full protection of the eagle in 1978. The population of the iconic American symbol went from 417 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states to over 5,000 pairs by 1997. In 2007, the population was large enough that the eagle is no longer considered endangered.
Despite this success and the popularity of the law, Republicans in service of big businesses that pollute are seeking to undermine the act in a number of ways.
The Trump administration is hoping to remove language that currently tells policymakers to avoid economic considerations when categorizing animals as endangered. In other words, they want to place financial interest ahead of protecting animals. It would give big business enormous sway over preserving animal life.
Zinke is also pushing for a distinction to be made between how threatened and endangered animals are protected. Right now, both groups of animals are given certain legal protections. Under the Trump administration's proposed rules, efforts currently underway to protect animals deemed threatened would be undermined, and the focus of conservation efforts would narrow to just the smaller group of endangered animals.
Also, the Trump team wants to make it more difficult to list species as threatened in the first place. If they aren't already listed as threatened, species can never reach endangered status and trigger those related protections.
The rules are part of a complete Republican assault on the law. Over two dozen pieces of legislation, policy initiatives and amendments pushed by Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have targeted the law in just a two-week period.
In addition to the eagle, the act has helped to save key endangered species like the American alligator and the grizzly bear. Other animals, like the gray wolf, are under threat. But Trump, Zinke and their Republican allies think it's fine to expose these vital animals to harm in service to big business and polluters.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.