"An Act to provide for the conservation of endangered and threatened species of fish, wildlife, and plants..."
-Endangered Species Act of 1973
For 45 years the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has arguably been one of the most significant federal laws protecting imperiled animals and plants, preventing a reported 99 percent of its listed species from extinction between 1973 and 2013.
As many have recently pointed out, that protection from extinction includes the bald eagle, the very living symbol of our nation.
The ESA is vital to ensure the survival of not only our most valued animals and plants, but of humans ourselves; as we rely on those species to provide clean air to breathe, water to drink, and crops to eat.
Unfortunately, our current administration and several members of Congress have not acknowledged the grave importance of the ESA, and since January 2017 there have been at least 75 legislative attacks made against the law.
Those proposed laws include everything from the blocking of federal funding, such as for the grizzly bears of the North Cascades, where there are fewer than 10 bears left, delisting numerous species such as the red and grey wolf, a ten-year delay or indefinite prevention of adding certain species, exempting oil activities from the ESA and removing citizens of their rights to petition the protection of species.
S.935 (Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act), sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), eliminates protections for species found within only one state, which would impact 1,099 animals and plants, removes protections from every endangered species until Congress passes a resolution of approval, and strips citizens of their ability to submit a petition to protect species under the ESA, all in one bill.
H.R.6107, sponsored by Rep. Stevan Pearce (R-NM), exempts oil and gas activities on certain lands from Section 7 of the ESA. With S.335 (H.R.3565), sponsored by Sen. Jame Inhofe (R-OK) and co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), waiving the ESA for all oil, gas and energy development activities.
The so-called "Buiding America's Trust Act" (S.1757), sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), would exempt US Customs and Border Protection from requirements of 36 different federal laws, including all provisions of the ESA.
DOI Dismantles ESA For Short-term Profits in Oil and Big Ag
Last month, the Department of the Interior (DOI), lead by Ryan Zinke, avid Safari Club International (SCI) and trophy hunting supporter, additionally announced a series of proposed changes to the ESA.
The DOI's proposal includes, removing protections from newly-listed threatened species, changes to the requirement that federal agencies consult with expert wildlife agencies and scientists when seeking permits for projects that may impact imperiled species and their habitat, including development activities and oil and gas drilling operations, and changes of rules and interpretations of the ESA, making it more difficult to list species.
Most of the shortsighted legislation and proposed changes to the ESA would benefit the uber-wealthy, many of whom make a profit while causing the problems that put species in peril in the first place, such as industrial agriculture and oil drilling corporations, also placing money in the pockets of the politicians who stand by them.
However, the DOI has slipped behind a smokescreen asserting their proposal is because the ESA is outdated. “The service’s experience and understanding has evolved since many of these regulations were promulgated in 1986," recently stated David Bernhardt, DOI Deputy Secretary.
Like numerous laws, the ESA could potentially benefit from a well-balanced and thoroughly considered revision to improve its efficiency. However, considering the DOI, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the majority of the actions taken by Congress during the Trump Administration have been in direct contradiction to the latest available science and with a lack of acknowledgment of current threats to numerous imperiled species, their so-called wishes to evolve the ESA appears to be more of a desire to dismantle it.
Trump Administration Allows Toxic Pesticides In Refuges
In 2014, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a phaseout of genetically modified crops to feed wildlife and neonicotinoid pesticides used within national wildlife refuges. According to reports, neonicotinoids are not only killing our essential pollinators (bees, butterflies, etc.), threatening ecosystems and the fruits and vegetables we eat, but also fish, amphibians, plants, and mammals including humans. The Environmental Health Sciences and American Acadamy of Pediatrics have reported evidence demonstrating associations between exposure to neonicotinoids and pediatric cancers, memory loss, autism, adverse neurological and developmental outcomes, including the risk of harm to a developing fetus.(1)(2) The lethal impact of neonicotinoids led to a recent ban on them in Europe. However, the Trump administration reversed that phaseout last month, re-allowing the use of those GMOs and poisonous pesticides within national refuges.
Egregious Killing Methods In Refuges and Preserves
In 2017, US Congress also passed S.J. Res 18 (H.J. Res. 69), which repealed protections for species, opening up 76,774,229 acres of land within Alaskan refugees to unsustainable and unsporting practices, such as killing wolf pups in their dens and shooting bears with the use of aircraft. A repeal which set an egregious precedent, causing an attempted expansion of similar practices within Alaska's National Preserves this year.
Alaska's National Preserves makeup over 23mil acres of land and is home to endangered species. A recent proposal by the DOI would repeal a 2015 law which banned the targeting of bears in their dens and at baiting sites within those preserves, including mothers and their cubs.
The Alaska Board of Game, SCI and state legislators with interests in trophy hunting are calling SJ Res 18 and the recent National Preserve proposal states-rights movements for Alaska. However, based on public comments received by the US Government and completed polls, the majority of Alaskan's supported the initial law banning unsporting methods in 2016 and were opposed to SJ Res 18 which repealed it in 2017.
Alaskans and other US citizens further solidified their strong opposition to such practices with their public outcry following the recent illegal killing of a black beer sow and her newborn cubs in their den within Alaska's Prince William Sound this past April. However, the DOI's Alaskan National Preserve proposal would make such an incident lawful.
Oil Drilling In National Monuments and Refuges
The website of the US Department of State acknowledges, "The most significant threat facing the long-term survival of polar bears is habitat loss due to climate change" and that their listing under the ESA is, "based on the best available science."
Yet, the Trump administration has made efforts that threaten to allow oil drillings within our most cherished National Monuments, such as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, and within Alaskan wildlife refuges, as well as offshore in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, putting our endangered and threatened species, including polar bears, that live within those sacred areas even more at risk.
Push For Trophy Hunting Despite More Revenue Coming From Non-Hunting Tourism
Even in the wake of the tragic killing of Cecil the lion and his son by trophy hunters, the DOI began issuing hunting permits for the import of lion trophies hunted in Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2017. That allowance continued, along with the import of elephant trophies in 2018, even after Trump stated he would put that decision on hold following the immense amount of public opposition.
The DOI also establish an 'International Wildlife Conservation Council', with authority to make recommendations regarding trophy hunting, including importation of internationally hunted wildlife and trade laws, poaching, illegal wildlife trafficking, and the ESA.
That council additionally focuses on promoting the economic benefits of trophy hunting despite the fact that studies show it is not an efficient form of wildlife or land conservation, accounting for 0.03% of US Gross Domestic Product(3) and less than 2% of tourism revenues in Africa, with the majority of nature tourism being related to non-hunting activity.(4)
Studies additionally reveal that trophy hunting revenues fail to reach rural communities, which ultimately lands in the hands of commercial outfitters, government agencies, and stakeholders of the trophy hunting industry.(4)
According to reports, one elephant was worth $1.6mil in non-hunting tourism revenues in 2014,* and wildlife watching in Africa drew in $34.2bil in 2013.** And that's not to mention the vital ecological benefits of wildlife. The bottom line, animals are more valuable alive than dead.
Taking A Stand Before It's Too Late
Currently, there are 2,344 species justifiably protected under the ESA (1,661 US/634 Foreign), with numerous others in direr need of being added to that list, such as the Giraffe. Several of those animals and plants provide essential benefits for humans, as we share this Earth; the home of us all.
Those valued species are already fighting for survival on a daily basis, due to climate change, habitat loss, pollution, illegal poaching, and human conflict, all the while their heads are mounted on walls as trophies. And now, they're simultaneously being attacked by corporations and politicians who are blinded by greed and ignorance.
Many of our US legislators are nearly or far past the age of retirement, and their time on Earth will be long past before they can witness the utter destruction their shortsighted and self-serving actions have left in their wake.
If we don't take actions to prevent the extinction of our most valued wild animals and plants now, the next endangered species could be humans, that is, if we aren't already.
1. Visit Your Legislator
The Endangered Species Coalition hosted the 'Stop Extinction Challenge' event in which residents from all over the nation went to see their legislators on August 10th in an effort to protect the ESA. Feeling left out? No worries. While visits from numerous constituents on the same day makes a big impact, the most important part of that is going to see your legislator at all. To schedule an appointment, call your legislator's office and speak with the staff member who answers the phone. If your legislator is unavailable, you'll meet with a staff member during your visit. Make sure you sign-in upon your arrival and take a copy of the person's business card you meet with, then follow up with an email to thank them. You don't have to be an expert on the ESA. The purpose is to show your legislator that protecting the ESA is important enough to you to take the time to drive to their office. An example of what you can say is below.
2. Call Your Legislator
Whether you or your legislator are unable to schedule an in-person meeting, you can still make a strong impact by calling their office. Leave your name, town, phone number, and a brief message with the staffer who answers the phone.
"My name is [your name], from [town] New Hampshire. I'm calling because I am opposed to the recent threats to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Protecting imperiled species is of vital importance for the conservation of our most valued wild animals and plants, which provide immense benefits to citizens, both ecologically and economically. Please tell [legislator name] to vote NO on any proposed reductions to the ESA."
3. Submit A Comment - Opposition to Proposal Weakening the ESA
Tell the Department of the Interrior and the Fish and Wildlife Service that you are opposed to their proposal to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Submit here.
Deadline: September 24, 2018 11:59pm
"I oppose the proposed 'Revision of Regulations for Prohibitions to Threatened Wildlife and Plants', which gravely weakens the Endangered Species Act. This proposal threatens the vital protections of our world's most magnificent and valued wildlife and plant species, which significantly benefit ecosystems and economies, and contribute to human survival."
"I strongly oppose the proposed 'Revision of Regulations for Prohibitions to Threatened Wildlife and Plants', which gravely weakens the Endangered Species Act. This ill-considered proposal flies in the face of the Fish and Wildlife Service's mission for efficient and scientifically sound conservation, and threatens the vital protections of imperiled wildlife and plant species, which significantly benefit our nation ecologically and economically."
4. Submit A Comment - Opposition to Hunting/Trapping Practices in Alaska's National Preserves
Tell the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior that you are opposed to the egregious hunting and trapping practices that they have proposed within Alaska's National Preserves. Submit here.
Deadline: November 5, 2018 11:59pm
"I am opposed to the National Park Service’s plan to repeal the 2015 rule which prohibited the use of dogs to hunt bears, killing hibernating bears and their cubs using artificial light, using bait to attract and shoot bears, shooting wolf and coyote pups and mothers at their dens, and shooting vulnerable swimming caribou. This repeal does not appropriately represent the overwhelming majority of Americans who are opposed to these unsporting practices, which will also disrupt the natural balance of ecosystems and are inconsistent with the Agency's statutory conservation mandate. Ecotourism and wildlife watching in Alaska generate billions for local economies, and protections should remain in place so that those species may be enjoyed by future generations."
5. Share Far and Wide
Share this with your family, friends, and co-workers, and kindly urge them to make calls and submit comments as well.
* iWorry, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, "Dead or Alive - Valuing an Elephant", 2013, http://iworry.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Dead-or-Alive-Final-LR.pdf ** World Tourism Orgranization, "Towards Measuring the Economic Value of Wildlife Watching Tourism in Africa", 2015, http://cf.cdn.unwto.org/sites/all/files/docpdf/unwtowildlifepaper.pdf
(1) Environmental Health Perspectives, NIEHS, Cimino, Andria M.; Boyles, Abee L., Thayer, Kristina A.; Perry, Melissa J., "Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticide Exposure on Human Health: A Systematic Review, July 2017
(2) American Acadomy of Pediatrics, "Pesticide Exposure in Children", 2012 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/130/6/e1757.full.pdf
(3) Murray, K. Cameron,"The lion’s share? On the economic benefits of trophy hunting", 2017
(4) Campbell, Roderick,"The $200 million question: How much does trophy hunting really contribute to African communities?", 2013