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Trump Administration Threatens the Endangered Species Act

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The Endangered Species Act—one of the most powerful laws designed to offer protection to species facing extinction due to human action—is “increasingly challenged by an administration that has little patience for laws and regulations that help protect our lands and wildlife,” Charles Pekow wrote in a report, “On Thin Ice,” published by Earth Island Journal in Spring 2019. In the two years since Donald Trump became president, Pekow reported, “at least 80 bills seeking to undermine the ESA or remove species from the list have been introduced in Congress.”

For a little over a decade, according to the Earth Island Journal’s story, conservationists have fought to protect Pacific walruses under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Protection for the walrus under the ESA was first proposed in 2008; in 2011, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) suggested that the Pacific walrus was threatened and endangered. The final decision on whether or not Pacific walruses would be official listed was supposed to be determined by 2017. However, in October 2017, the Trump administration determined that the Pacific walrus did not warrant listing. The Trump administration explained that “impacts of the effects of climate change on the Pacific walrus population are based on speculation, rather than reliable prediction,” Pekow reported.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) sued the Trump administration for its decision not to include the Pacific walrus as an endangered or at-risk species. According to Pekow’s report, the lawsuit is pending.

In addition to Pekow’s detailed report for Earth Island Journal, the Trump administration’s decision not to list the Pacific walrus has received limited coverage in other news outlets, including USA Today and the Chicago Tribune; National Geographic and Popular Science have also provided coverage. The Guardian published a more in-depth piece on the topic in October 2017.

Sources:

Charles Pekow, “On Thin Ice: Will the Endangered Species Act Survive the Trump Administration? Earth Island Journal, Spring 2019, http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/magazine/entry/on-thin-ice-endangered-species-act-trump-administration.

Ryan Shannon, “Lawsuit Targets Zinke’s Secretive Program Undermining Wildlife Protection,”  Center for Biological Diversity, November 8, 2018, https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2018/endangered-species-11-08-2018.php.

Student Researcher: Madi Jones (College of Western Idaho)

Faculty Evaluator: Michelle Mahoney (College of Western Idaho)

Daniel Christof

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