Trump's Putting A Deadly Squeeze On Endangered Wildlife

10/18/2017 09:52 pm ET Updated Oct 19, 2017
Pacific walrus, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
Bill Hickey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Pacific walrus, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

It’s a dark day in America when some of the nation’s most endangered wildlife – many literally knocking on extinction’s door – are denied protections they desperately need because of bad politics.

But that’s exactly what happened earlier this month when the Trump administration denied 25 critically imperiled animals protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The species range from the Pacific walrus — found to be endangered by the Obama administration because of loss of summer sea ice to climate change — to the Florida Keys mole skink, which is rapidly losing habitat to sea-level rise. They also include 14 species of Nevada springsnails threatened by the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plans to pump groundwater in the northern part of the state.

You couldn’t ask for a clearer sign that the Trump administration puts corporate profits ahead of protecting endangered species. All of these unique and magnificent animals are now one step closer to extinction. That’s why the organization where I work is going to challenge as many of these bogus findings as we can. In addition to the species mentioned above, the Bicknell’s thrush, Big Blue Springs cave crayfish, black-backed woodpecker, Great Sand Dunes tiger beetle and Kirtland’s snake were among those denied protection.

A number of the species — including the walrus, the mole skink, Bicknell’s thrush and northern Rockies population of fisher — are known to be threatened by climate change, as well as other factors. But the Trump administration denied protection anyway, saying their loss was too speculative.

Denying protection for these 25 species despite the imminent threat of climate change and ongoing habitat destruction is tragically typical of the Trump administration’s head-in-the-sand approach.

But the bad news for America’s wildlife doesn’t stop there. Research by the Center for Biological Diversity shows that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to make decisions concerning protection of 22 species under the Endangered Species Act, pushing the lesser prairie chicken, Hermes copper butterfly and others closer to extinction as well.

The Fish and Wildlife Service also failed to protect critical habitat for 20 already-listed endangered species, including the yellow-billed cuckoo and green sea turtle.

The Trump administration and Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have failed miserably at preserving the nation’s natural heritage. It’s especially frustrating since the Fish and Wildlife Service made an honest attempt to prioritize species protections with extensive input from state wildlife agencies. But the Service wasn’t able to get the job done for these imperiled animals because of opposition from the Trump administration.

The decisions were supposed to have been made in fiscal year 2017, which ended Sept. 30, according to a work plan developed by the Fish and Wildlife Service to address a backlog of more than 500 plants and animals awaiting endangered species protections.

Under the work plan, as well as court orders in some cases, the agency was supposed to make protection decisions for 61 species and designate critical habitat for 20 other species. Instead agency staffers made decisions for 39 species, only protecting 10, and protected critical habitat for zero species. The Trump administration is totally out of step with the vast majority of Americans who back strong protections for wildlife. They want their children and grandchildren to experience the same rich, wild landscapes where they first heard the Bicknell’s thrush call through the forest or glimpsed the tail of a fisher as it disappeared into the underbrush. Now is not the time to deny protections to our most endangered animals – because if we don’t save them now, it will soon be too late.

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