With the looming inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, GOP lawmakers are hoping to roll back key parts of the Endangered Species Act.
The law, passed almost unanimously by Congress in 1973, has helped to protect endangered and threatened species, as well as their habitats. One of the factors that drove the law forward was the near-extinction of the American bald eagle. After the act went into effect, the eagle population rebounded and was removed from the endangered species list in 2007. The law currently protects wolves and the Canada lynx, among other endangered species.
Critics of the Endangered Species Act say that it prevents companies from engaging in activities such as drilling and logging. Big industry projects are routinely halted because a population of prairie chickens or protected salmon would be harmed by activities that disturb their habitat. Republicans point to increasing numbers of wolf attacks on livestock as evidence that parts of the law need to be lifted.
With the GOP in control of both the House and the Senate and Donald Trump preparing to enter the White House, it looks as though Republicans may get their wish. They’d like to remove species such as the sage grouse and gray wolf from the protected list. As for other changes, details are scarce. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma would like to see a species removed from the list whenever a new one is added. Meanwhile, House Representative Tom McClintock will push to lessen logging restrictions in national forests, which he claims will reduce wildfires.
Wildlife conservationists are alarmed at any proposed changes to the act. “Any species that gets in the way of a congressional initiative or some kind of development will be clearly at risk,” Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark told the Associated Press.
In the meantime, both sides watch to see what Trump’s stance will be. Although he has voiced frustration with policies that prevent activities such as drilling, environmentalists see a potential friend in Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, Trump’s pick for Interior Secretary.
By Dawn Henderson, Earth.com Staff Writer