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Trump Extinction Plan Guts Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON - Today, against a backdrop of recent reports of global mass extinction, the Trump administration released final regulations weakening the Endangered Species Act, the nation’s most effective tool in saving wildlife from extinction. The Trump Extinction Plan would gut critical endangered species protections by making it much more difficult to extend protections to threatened species, delaying lifesaving action until a species' population is potentially impossible to save; making it more difficult to protect polar bears, coral reefs, and other species that are impacted by the effects of climate change; allowing economic factors to be analyzed when deciding if a species should be saved; and making it easier for companies to build roads, pipelines, mines, and other industrial projects in critical habitat areas that are essential to imperiled species' survival.

These changes come in the wake of tremendous public opposition to weakening the protections of the Endangered Species Act. After the proposed rules were announced, more than 800,000 public comments were submitted opposing the changes. Last fall, 105 Members of Congress and 34 U.S. Senators sent letters to Trump’s Department of the Interior to protest the harmful rollbacks. Ten states and the District of Columbia are also on record opposing the weakening of the Endangered Species Act as are more than 30 tribal nations.

The Endangered Species Act has been extremely effective; more than 99 percent of animals, plants and insects protected by the law have been saved from extinction. Endangered Species Act protection has saved some of the nation’s most celebrated wildlife including the bald eagle, Florida manatee, American gray wolf and humpback whale. A 2018 survey found that four out of five Americans support the Endangered Species Act and just one in ten say they oppose it.    

In response groups issued the following responses:

“Undermining this popular and successful law is a major step in the wrong direction as we face the increasing challenges of climate change and its effects on wildlife. The Endangered Species Act works; our communities-- both natural and human-- have reaped the benefits. This safety net must be preserved.” -- Lena Moffitt, Our Wild America Campaign Senior Director, Sierra Club

 “We are in the midst of an unprecedented extinction crisis, yet the Trump Administration is steamrolling our most effective wildlife protection law. This Administration seems set on damaging fragile ecosystems by prioritizing industry interests over science. We intend to fight these regulatory rollbacks so that we can preserve the natural world for generations to come.” -- Rebecca Riley, Legal Director of the Nature Program, Natural Resources Defense Council

“The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to rescind these longstanding regulations eliminates many essential conservation tools that have protected imperiled species and their habitats for decades. With this drastic revision of core components of the ESA, the current administration is favoring industry at the expense of vulnerable wildlife. Increased threats from development and a changing climate necessitate the strong and full enforcement of the ESA now more than ever.” -- Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute

“The Endangered Species Act protects ocean wildlife such as the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, which faces a multitude of threats. The genius of the Endangered Species Act is its recognition that not only do we need to protect vulnerable species, but also allow them to recover so they no longer need the protection of the Act. The Trump Administration’s new regulations allow federal agencies to water down key elements of the law, putting the North Atlantic right whale and other endangered wildlife at greater risk of extinction.” --  Lara Levison, Senior Director, Federal Policy for Oceana

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“It is particularly egregious that the Trump Administration is steamrolling through unpopular rules that were issued by a Secretary of Interior who is under multiple investigations. Losing our biodiversity isn’t something that any American can afford. We don’t live in an enclosed man-made bubble--our health and safety, the health and safety of our children and grandchildren, our access to clean air and water, actually depends on biodiversity.” -- Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition

“The US Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to dismantle further the Endangered Species Act in favor of special interest groups will decrease critical protections and add increased pressure to species and entire ecosystems causing immeasurable death and destruction to wildlife and their habitat. The ESA has proven to be the most important law to preserve wildlife, and the American public must fight to uphold those critical protections.” – Angela Grimes, CEO of Born Free USA

“Trump and Bernhardt’s rollbacks undermine the very purpose of the Endangered Species Act which is to prevent extinction, recover imperiled animals and plants, and protect the ecosystems on which they depend. These rollbacks are a gift to their pals in industry that squarely violates federal law, which is why we're going to court.” -- Drew Caputo, Earthjustice Vice-President of Litigation for Lands, Wildlife, and Oceans.

“At a time when nature is facing unprecedented challenges from a changing climate and the increasing sprawl of the human footprint on native habitats, weakening the Endangered Species Act is the last thing we should do. The ESA is a law that has worked brilliantly well for many decades because it gets the politics out of the way and requires all decisions affecting the fate of rare and imperiled plants and animals to be based solely on science instead. The proposal to tinker with the law that saved species ranging from the bald eagle to the black-footed ferret to the peregrine falcon is a cynical move designed to permit the extinction of the Earth’s rich diversity of life.” -- Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project

"As the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), releases a report detailing the deteriorating state of ecosystem health and the predicted mass loss of biodiversity, the Trump Administration is attempting to weaken Federal ESA protections that remain essential to facilitate species and habitat protection. Human population growth and conversion of natural habitats has led to environmental change unparalleled in history. We must do everything we can to maintain healthy populations of plants and animals in a time of rapid disappearance. Our very lives may depend on us paying our debts to the land and seeking balance between a growing human population and the diminishing resources of our planet." --Chris Bachman, Wildlife Program Director, The Lands Council

“Threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plants in our national parks already face habitat changes and impacts of a climate crisis that is accelerating each year. Instead of working with Congress and states to better protect and restore wildlife as the climate changes, the Trump administration is reinterpreting the Endangered Species Act to weaken protections. The National Parks Conservation Association strongly opposes these final rules.” -- Bart Melton, Wildlife Director for the National Parks Conservation Association.

“Weakening the Endangered Species Act is yet another example of the Trump administration’s careless disregard for our nation’s public lands and wildlife, and a blatant giveaway to extractive industries. It is especially egregious considering the recent U.N. report indicating that nearly 1 million species are threatened with extinction. We need to strengthen and fully fund the Act, not tear it down. We won’t stand for it, and we will fight back to protect our natural heritage." --Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate, WildEarth Guardians

“The most comprehensive assessment of biodiversity ever completed was released earlier this year and shows that more than one million species are at risk of extinction. These species are inextricably linked to our own well-being, livelihoods, economies, food security, and overall survival. Gutting key protections of the Endangered Species Act is precisely the wrong action for the U.S. to be taking at this critical point in time. We must protect and conserve vulnerable species so that we may all thrive together.” – Beth Allgood, U.S. Country Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare

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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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