SELC condemns administration plan to dismantle Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act was essential to the rebound of the brown pelican population. (© Getty Images)

SELC came out strongly against changes to implementation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act put forth this week by the Trump administration.

“These rules remove long-standing protections for endangered and threatened wildlife that are central to our natural heritage and follows attacks on America’s wild spaces and bedrock protections for air and water,” said Ramona McGee, staff attorney for SELC. “The rules undermine the scientific foundation our environmental laws have been built upon, and along with other environmental rollbacks, threaten natural ecosystems and communities across the country.”

The Endangered Species Act, passed with bipartisan support in 1973, is widely supported and incredibly effective legislation that has helped save species like the bald eagle, the humpback whale, the grizzly bear, the American alligator, the brown pelican and the manatee.

The act is needed now more than ever. A recent report by United Nations scientists warned that as many as 1 million species across the globe are at risk of extinction because of a number of factors, including climate change.

But the Trump administration’s new rule would make it easier to remove protections for listed species, allow economic considerations to outweigh science in determining which species and habitats to protect, and limit how climate change projections are weighed in determining risks to species.

The Southeastern United States, which boasts spectacular biodiversity, could be especially impacted by the weakening of the Endangered Species Act. In public comments submitted last year in opposition to the rule, SELC named 253 currently listed species and 190 species under review in the Southeastern United States that could be adversely impacted by the rule, ranging from plants, animals, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds and sea mammals.

Endangered and threatened species in the Southeast include the vermilion darter, the Atlantic sturgeon, the hellbender salamander, the Mississippi sandhill crane, red wolf, and red-cockaded woodpecker — among many others. The North Atlantic right whale is another endangered species at risk, whose breeding grounds are off the coast of Georgia.

The Southeast also contains much critical habitat necessary to the survival of these species. Current habitat protections would be weakened by these rule changes as well, which give agencies far more leeway in making determinations about which habitat deserves protection.

The Endangered Species Act has been enormously successful, saving 99 percent of listed species from extinction. When the world is facing an unprecedented extinction crisis, the act should be strengthened and supported, not gutted.

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