The Trump Administration has taken another yet step towards exacerbating the effects of climate change by announcing an overhaul of the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior said on Monday that certain regulations will be controversially reduced, drawing criticism from environmentalists who have aptly noted that many plant life and animal species will be imperiled as a result.
According to the New York Times, the landmark conservation law is credited with rescuing the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, the American alligator, and more from extinction since Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1973. As a result of the weakened regulations, it will become more difficult to distinguish the effects of climate change on certain species when determining when wildlife protection is warranted.
The Trump Administration's effort will for the first time introduce economic assessments to determine when species protections should be granted.
The catalyst behind the overhaul was likely how reduced regulations will allow for increased gas drilling, mining, and other development, undoubtedly harming the designation of critical habitats, which help ensure long-term survival for species. Additionally, the Act will no longer provide the same protections for threatened species—those at risk of becoming extinct—as those species already listed as endangered.
“The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal – recovery of our rarest species,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in a statement. “The act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation.”
According to a three-year study published by the United Nations in May, up to one million species of land and marine life are expected to be pushed into extinction as a result of the continuation of human actions, per HuffPost. The scientists and environmentalists also found that preserving land and ecosystems helps curb the emissions of greenhouse gases.
“These changes crash a bulldozer through the Endangered Species Act’s lifesaving protections for America’s most vulnerable wildlife,” said Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “For animals like wolverines and monarch butterflies, this could be the beginning of the end."
The gutted provisions finalize an earlier proposal made by the Department of the Interior, to which many environmental groups responded by threatening legal action. The new measures are expected to go into effect 30 days after they appear in the Federal Register.