by Christina Wiseman and Jenna Clemenzi
The federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) is under threat. A bipartisan conservation law passed in 1973, the ESA defines species as “endangered” or “threatened” and requires federal agencies to protect them and their habitat. The ESA has a 99% success rate, and has helped bring species like the bald eagle and humpback whale back from the brink of extinction.
The ESA is especially important today, as we face the threat of a mass extinction of up to 1 million species. This drastic decline in species would be detrimental to our health, food security, and economies. The ESA is also strongly supported by the American public, with 90% expressing support in a recent poll.
An Uncertain Future
Despite the ESA’s popularity and bipartisan passage, some members of Congress have made 150 efforts to weaken the act in the last two years, largely due to pressure from extractive industries that believe the law restricts business.
Last week, the Trump Administration announced their final changes to ESA regulations, which significantly threaten the law’s effectiveness.
These changes include:
- Allowing economic impacts, rather than solely the best available scientific data, to be considered when determining the protection status of a species
- Weakening of protections for species deemed “threatened”
- More flexibility in determining how species will be impacted in the “foreseeable future,” effectively allowing the effects of climate change to be disregarded
The changes allow the coal, oil, gas, and timber industries to have a greater say in the management of threatened and endangered species and their habitats. In order to ensure the continued survival of these species in the United States, the ESA needs to be restored to its full capacity.
You can help stop the dismantling of the Endangered Species Act!
- Call or email your Congressperson and ask them to hold hearings on saving the ESA
- Ask Senators Warren and Markey to stop the rollback using the Congressional Review Act
- Thank Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey for her defense of the Act – she plans to sue the Trump Administration over these changes
Mass Audubon has spoken out about this issue before, and we’ll continue to do so. We’ve reached out to Attorney General Healey in support of her legal appeal, and have offered to work with her office in defending the ESA in federal court. As founding members of the US Endangered Species Coalition, we condemned the decision to weaken the ESA, and weighed in about impacts these changes could have locally here in Massachusetts.