Commentary, Trump Administration

Editorial: Trump’s outrageously shortsighted attack on the Endangered Species Act

An endangered red wolf in eastern North Carolina

You really can’t make this stuff up. We have more and more evidence every day that humans face an existential crisis as a result of, in effect, drowning themselves and the rest of the biosphere in their own effluent, and what do the Trumpists propose? Give yourself a gold star if you guessed weakening the already inadequate Endangered Species Act. As today’s lead editorial in the Greensboro News & Record observes, this is a dreadful idea, After noting that bills to eviscerate the law failed when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, the editorial explains that Trump and his minions plan to go ahead without Congress:

So the Trump administration has decided to gut the law on its own, by rewriting the rules of its enforcement. Unless something is done, less than a month from now, there will be fewer protections for threatened species. It will be easier to remove species from the endangered list. It will be easier for mining, drilling, logging and other business activities to proceed even if they will harm species.

Regulators will now be able to take into account “economic factors” when deciding if a species merits protection. That strikes at the heart of the law, which rightly has weighed science-based judgments taking the long view over immediate profits.

Equally bad, the changes would make it harder for regulators to consider effects of climate change on wildlife. Trump doesn’t believe in human causes of climate change anyway, so his administration isn’t likely to value scientific projections looking 20 or 30 years down the road. A recent U.N. report estimated that human activity is pushing 1 million species toward extinction.

After noting the long list of disastrous environmental policies Trump has been pursuing (on the climate crisis, coal, preserving open spaces and many others), the editorial concludes this way:

One of Trump’s rallying cries is about removing the “regulatory burden,” as if all regulations are bad. Sure, bureaucracy can be frustrating at times, but sensible regulations are needed to make sure that the self-interest we pursue is the enlightened kind.

Some states, members of Congress and environmental groups are gearing up to fight Trump’s move to cripple what may be the most important environmental law of the last 50 years. Good for them. A few years of wrongheaded policy could do damage that will last forever.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

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