Up to one million species are at risk of extinction, including some 40% of invertebrate pollinators, including bees and butterflies. There have been some biodiversity conservation success stories here in the United States, including the healthy return of the iconic bald eagle and the recovery of the American crocodile. Such stories are largely thanks to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Originally signed in 1973 under President Nixon’s administration, the ESA has been called one of the most successful pieces of environmental legislation ever.
We’re still in the middle of a major biodiversity crisis, but now the Trump administration wants to take the cynical and counterproductive step of considering economic concerns when categorizing species — even though prioritizing the economy over nature is what jeopardizes many species in this country. The edits to the ESA would allow for removing species from the endangered list, as well as limiting protections for threatened species. This could accelerate habit degradation and the demise of our country's wildlife.
I’m studying forest ecology and I worry about the future of forestry in this country. The ESA encouraged sustainable forest management, forcing industry, land managers, and conservationists to work together. The logging industry was able to adapt to these changes and continues to be productive while preserving species’ habitat. But now, if economic assessments predict lost revenue from restricted logging in habitats with endangered species, ESA protections might be overlooked.
Changes to the law are set to go into effect in 30 days. If you are worried like I am, consider calling or writing to your senators and representatives! Endangered species are counting on us.