Press Release

Trump Administration Exacerbates Extinction Crisis

Federal government torpedoes Endangered Species Act against popular public opinion

Daniela Arellano
310-434-2304, darellano@nrdc.org

WASHINGTON – The United States Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce approved new regulations that weaken the Endangered Species Act today. 

Following is a statement from Rebecca Riley, Legal Director for the Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“Over the objections of nearly everyone, the Trump Administration has eviscerated one of our nation’s foundational environmental laws. Poll after poll shows Americans support the Endangered Species Act as a lifeline to the wildlife it protects. The Administration ignored the hundreds of thousands of objections from scientists, wildlife experts, and the American people who overwhelmingly support the Endangered Species Act.”

“The impacts of this action are bad enough on their own—but the decision also signals continued willful ignorance from the Trump Administration about the looming impacts climate change will have on the American landscape. Many parts of the Endangered Species Act could be helpful in taking a more forward-looking perspective on climate impacts to wildlife, but that seems like an impossibility from this president.”

“Science must guide our decisions, not dollar signs.  We shouldn’t use economic factors to decide whether a species should be saved. We’re facing an extinction crisis and the Administration is placing industry needs above the needs of our natural heritage.”

Background

The Endangered Species Act is a federal law that protects endangered and threatened species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), an agency within the Department of the Interior, and the National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency within the Department of Commerce, are responsible for administering and enforcing the law.

Late last year, a report revealed an astonishing 60% decline in the populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians around the world in just over 40 years. Earlier this year, a United Nations report warned one million species are in threat of extinction due to human activity.  In spite of these alarming numbers and polls demonstrating broad support for the Endangered Species Act, USFWS proposed and approved revisions to its regulations that aim to weaken species protections.

These changes would: 

  • Reduce protections given to species that are listed as “threatened,” the designation given to plants and animals before they become “endangered.” Current classifications equally protect both, but the new policy means protections for future threatened species may be far more limited.
  • Allow more federal actions to move forward without fully considering all impacts on listed species.
  • Exempt climate change from key parts of the law, making it more difficult to protect the polar bear, the bearded seal, and many other imperiled species that are impacted by the effects of climate change.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

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