POLL: Could U.S. endangered species rules go extinct under Trump?

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Once nearly extinct, gray wolves have rebounded in recent years under the Act. In Wisconsin, their numbers grew to around 900 in 2016—a 16 percent increase over the previous year.

To James Holte of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, this is not good news.

“As wolf populations continue to increase, interactions between farmers, their livestock, rural residents, and wolves continue to escalate without a remedy in sight,” Holte told lawmakers during a Senate hearing Wednesday on the law. He said farms saw more than $200,000 in damage from attacks and stress on livestock.

Gray wolves are at the center of a heated debate over the future of the . Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Creative

Foes of the Endangered Species Act now see an opportunity to weaken it under President Donald , who has said the nation’s environmental rules are “out of control.” His temporary freeze on pending regulations prevented first-ever protections for a species of from taking effect this month.

The 1973 law allows the federal government to protect certain species by designating them as or endangered, preserving habitat and outlawing hunts. It currently protects more than 1,600 plant and animal species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the law’s implementation, acknowledges that the number of species so far deemed robust enough to be taken off the protected list (close to 40) is “relatively modest.” But it has been nearly 100 percent successful at preventing those species from going extinct altogether, and it has allowed others, such as the , , and American crocodile, to thrive.

The farm bureau’s objections to gray wolf protections echo other conservation versus industry battles: the versus loggers; the threatened desert tortoise versus burgeoning solar power; the currently unlisted sage grouse versus drillers and pipelines.

Wednesday’s Senate hearing was focused on “modernizing” the current act by making it more challenging to list a new species, for example, or expediting the removal of species that are already listed.

Some observers are wary of this language. “The professed desire to ‘modernize’ the ESA has almost always been code to push forward an agenda to weaken or gut it,” Defenders of Wildlife chief Jamie Rappaport Clark told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works during the hearing.

The environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council has already sued the Trump administration over its suspension of protections for the rusty patched bumblebee.

“We don’t think this is just a freeze,” says Rebecca Riley, senior attorney for NRDC. “It’s an opportunity for the administration to reconsider, and perhaps revoke, the rule entirely.”

Hundreds of bills, introduced mostly by Republicans, have sought to delist species or otherwise weaken the ESA, and most of them have been unsuccessful. “It’s a very popular law,” Riley says, with a “long track record” of balancing industry and conservation concerns.

Some Western states would like to see the removed from legal , but many conservationists don’t agree. Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Creative

It’s unclear yet which species might be affected by deregulatory moves, but certainly the gray wolf—already the subject of multiple failed measures in Congress—would be among the targets, as would grizzly bears, which are under consideration for delisting.

The gray wolf might be a bane for Wisconsin farmers, but it and other species are a boon for tourism, says Anne Carlson, a biologist and climate adaptation specialist with the Wilderness Society.

Carlson is based in Montana. “A massive amount of our income comes from tourism dollars,” she says. “That depends on us having these ecologically intact wildlands.”

Of course, conserving wildlife isn’t only about compelling scenery. Maintaining biodiversity is also an exercise in human preservation, when you consider that something so small as a bee is among the pollinators that play a critical role in our food supply.

Carlson has worked in African and Southeast Asian countries where no law like the ESA exists. She says without it, you don’t see the focused planning, funding and public involvement needed to save a species. “All of those pieces are missing if you are living in a place that doesn’t have seminal legislation like this in place,” she says.

The NRDC is waiting for the Trump administration to file a response to its lawsuit, which should happen within 60 days. The group is prepared to file further suits to defend the ESA, Riley says.

The stakes are high, in Carlson’s view. “We’re not just talking about how this is a temporary setback” when wildlife is left susceptible to decline, she says. “Once that species is gone, it’s gone.”

This article was first published by National Geographic on 18 Feb 2017.

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Could U.S. endangered species rules go extinct under Trump?

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Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop . By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.


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Ella Sophia Meijs
Ella Sophia Meijs

The question was not clear enough to vote, for me. Do you mean if ESA should be broken off, or if the possibillity exists that Trump’s administration breaks it off.
I’m sorry but i can’t vote if the question is not clear to me.

Darlene Ropek
Darlene Ropek


Joyce Kolasa

I voted for him but now I wonder. I agree with many things he says/plans to do but to let these great animals go extinct is a crime. They’re part of our heritage and need to be protected. President Trump please protect the wild animals.

Darren Jessup

So does our planet need to be protected and from what I know Trump is basically doing is everything that is very dangerous for our enviornment/planet and is going to end up killing us all. Call me an extremist or whatever you call people like me, I know our planet (ozone) is in a bit of a poor state because of man made pollution etc and it worries me how much longer it will hold all the time more and more totally unnecessary pollution is being produced and all the time Trump has control things are only going to get… Read more »

Grace Neff

Our Government consists of people who, from their lifestyle, have never enjoyed a day in the wilderness and have no idea of how it’s health impacts everything on this planet.

Lucia Reid
Lucia Reid

Want to help animals? Check your state’s laws. YOU have the ability to create and support laws that affect your animals. http://animallaw.com/Legislation.cfm

Lucia Reid
Lucia Reid

This battle has been going on and will continue forever regardless of who is in the White House. Obama was in charge for 8 years. He could have written executive orders to benefit wildlife on this first day/. He didn’t. Now power is being given back to states instead of being under Federal control. That gives EACH person the ability to SAVE animals in their specific state. Swearing and complaining doesn’t save even one animal. Talk to your local and reps and find out which ones will help wildlife. Thank them – ask the other to consider your point of… Read more »

JD Creager

Common sense is no longer common. When you have an agency doing serious over reach into wildlife and people who do not have the knowledge working on emotion making rules and ignoring the facts. Its time to change things.

I hope Trump cleans out the emotional charged people and uses people who know facts.

John Tobias

What a foolish comment. Trump does not believe in science, why do you think he will use people who know about wildlife?

Theresa Kemp

The US itself will die under Trump!

Alison Wells

I hope not

Michele Jankelow

Absolutely this good happen! He is an environmental nightmare! The process of creating responsbile management for wildlife and wildplaces is not on his agenda! I shudder at what may take place!

Darren Jessup

it’s not a question of could they go extinct under Trumps rules it’s a matter of they will go extinct all the time this psycho is on the loose !

Anne Grice

Defininitely yes! Giving psychopaths open season to hunt and kill wild life is the worst act of irresponsible wild life management at any time and will definitley have a negative impact on endnagered species! Humans dont care a dam about what endangered means so its up to goverment to pass respobsible pertinent enforceable laws so happy hunters have some constraint!