Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Trump administration weakening enforcement of Endangered Species Act

One would think that the United Nations report warning that one million species could go extinct in the next century, which I last mentioned in Verge Science and Depeche Mode on the Insect Apocalypse, would elicit more concern among people and their governments about saving endangered species.  That doesn't seem to be the case in the United States, or at least with the Trump administration, which is thinking of weakening the implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  WUSA uploaded an editorial on the proposal this morning, Changes coming to The Endangered Species Act.

According to a recent United Nations report, more than 1 million animal and plant species are at a major risk of facing extinction. The Trump administration has announced that it will be making major changes to The Endangered Species Act. Some of these changes include economic costs being considered when determining if a species should be protected and another weakens already existing protections of threatened groups.
The good news is that Trump and the rest of the executive branch can't change the law itself; it can only change how it interprets the act, including the regulations it uses to enforce it.  The bad news is that the executive branch can do a lot with regulations.  NPR has more on that last point in Trump Administration Makes Major Changes To Protections For Endangered Species.
In a move that critics say will hurt plants, animals and other species as they face mounting threats, the Trump administration is making major changes to how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. The U.S. Department of Interior on Monday announced a suite of long-anticipated revisions to the nation's premier wildlife conservation law, which is credited with bringing back the bald eagle and grizzly bears, among other species.
One of the changes will allow economic costs to be taken into account while determining whether a species warrants protection. Another will weaken the initial protections given to species deemed to be threatened, one step shy of being endangered.

The changes will apply only to future listing decisions.
Many of the changes the Trump administration is rolling out address shared administrative concerns about the act, says Jake Li, the director for biodiversity at the Environmental Policy Innovation Center. Others, he says, are problematic and weaken the bedrock law's effectiveness.

Among them is limiting which habitat — and how much of it — gets considered in determining whether a species is endangered. Land a species currently occupies would be the priority. But wildlife advocates say that could make it harder to account for threats from the warming climate, which has shrunk habitat for some species and will force others to migrate to new areas.
I'm with Jake Li; calculating economic costs, weakening initial protections, and limiting considerations of habitat are all factors that will reduce the ability of the ESA to protect threatened and endangered species, exactly the opposite of what the experts and I think is needed.  Fortunately, these changes are being challenged in court.
Numerous environmental groups and state attorneys general vow to sue the administration over the changes, alleging they are illegal because they're not grounded in scientific evidence.

"We don't take these challenges lightly," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra during a conference call. "We don't look to pick a fight every time this administration decides to take an action. But we challenge these actions by this administration because it is necessary."
I wish them both skill and luck. They and the organisms the ESA protects will need it.


  1. The word "nihilism" needs to be used more often. Such as in connection with this desire to wreck the ecosystem, whether it's cyanide bombs for wolves or gagging the atmosphere with a smotherblanket of CO2. That's what a lot of the reich-wing actions boil down to.

    "We will fuck things up because we CAN! You do-gooders want to stop us, make us clean things, NOT destroy them? FUCK YOU! We're going to smash everything!"

    It's the (il)logic of a toddler having a tantrum, sheer rage over being told what to do, a desire that's ultimately suicidal (and murderous too, because it's going to kill a lot of people along with the deaths of the self-hating, humanity-despising power-mad monsters who perpetrate the outrages.) It sickens my soul, the nihilism of those who want to blast every organised structure into anarchic entropy. I wish they would just shoot themselves in the head en masse and get it over with. But there's a twisted side to that mindset that makes them want to cause pain to other sentient creatures first.

    I was about to type "We have met The Borg, and it us us" but even the Borg (that word is both singular and plural, right, like moose?) wanted to perpetuate their Borgishness, not just put out the lights on all life. It's a sickness of some part of the human spirit that drives many, like the Nazi end-timers, to try and bring on Gotterdammerung.

    1. I don't think it's a desire to wreck the ecosystem for its own sake; i think ruining the biosphere is collateral damage to their true targets, making liberals upset (mad or sad, it doesn't matter) and improving their immediate economic and social circumstances. On the other hand, I think American and European conservatives really do wish ill on immigrants and other brown people in their midst and owning the libs and getting ahead are secondary, even if their bigotry might achieve both.

      As a "Star Trek" fan, I can tell you that Borg is both singular and plural, just as the fictional race is as well. After all, they call themselves The Collective.

      As for the death wish, I have real trouble accepting that as someone who studies evolution. I have a hard time understanding how that would arise by natural selection unless it's a side effect of some otherwise desirable trait, like culture and narratives. Selfish memes, anyone?