Side Note

Trump wants to endanger endangered animals even further

The Trump administration wants to make it easier to strip endangered and threatened animals of their protected status and limit habitat protections. In a joint statement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) proposed a series of dramatic changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which serves to protect endangered wildlife around the nation.

The Endangered Species Act currently protects over 1,600 species of plants and animals, and has been in place since Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1973. The move to weaken it in the name of less regulation fits with the Trump administration’s anti-environmentalist crusade. Trump has pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, opened up millions of acres of federal land to commerical mining, and courted Big Coal, among countless other things.

If adopted, the proposed revisions would decrease the number of at-risk animals that are automatically given protection under section 4 of the ESA. Currently, threatened species — which are at risk of extinction, but not as at risk as endangered species — are automatically granted the same protections as endangered species as a precautionary measure. The proposed changes would do away with this practice and institute a case-by-case decision making process, which would likely result in fewer at-risk species being given the protections they require.

The proposal also aims to change the very definition of a threatened species. Currently, the ESA defines the term as a species “that is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future,” however, there has never been a standard definition for “foreseeable future.” The proposed changes would limit the term to “make it clear that it extends only as far as they can reasonably determine that both the future threats and the species’ responses to those threats are probable.”