With Trump just days from taking his seat in the Oval Office and in control of a Republican Congress, environmentalists are worried what this might mean to the nation’s wildlife. It is widely believed that the Endangered Species Act will soon be in the cross hairs, reports the Washington Post, as the GOP seeks to repeal and replace one of the government’s most important conservation tools.
Republicans are arguing that granting protection to certain species limits activities such as drilling, mining, and logging that could benefit individual states, and some are now seeking to alter the act. One such proposed change is to limit the total number of species allowed on the list, only allowing a new species to be listed if another is taken off.
The act was originally passed in 1973 in order to bring in much-needed protection for the bald eagle. The national emblem of the United States was, at the time, slipping perilously close to extinction, and so the Endangered Species Act was formed to protect the iconic bird, garnering near unanimous support from Congress. And it worked: Fast-forward to 2007 and the bald eagle was removed from the list with an estimated 9,789 breeding pairs recorded that year.
But those in opposition to the act today argue that these success stories are too few and far between, and that the legislation is instead being abused in order to prevent development and preserve the land, moving away from what it was originally set up to do. Out of over 2,000 species that are listed, the number that have been removed due to recovery over the last three decades is only a fraction of this number.
Some are arguing that the whole act needs to be rewritten and that control of which species are listed taken from a federal level and given to individual states. One of the most contentious species on the list is the grey wolf, which many argue has recovered sufficiently to be delisted, yet the US Fish and Wildlife Service is not allowing. Those states in prime wolf habitat want to be able to control and hunt the animals themselves, particularly farmers and ranchers.
As with many of the future President's stance on issues, little is actually known about what the man himself thinks about the act. But if his views on reviving the coal, oil, and gas industry are anything to go by, it seems he may not look too favorably on species that could be blocking the development of such initiatives.