A new report describes the 10 species most at risk from policies proposed by the current administration.
It's hard when there's a president in office who does things that you don't agree with. But usually, there's a little comfort in knowing that political tides change and policies can be reversed and things may be more to your liking again in the not-too-distant future.
Unfortunately, this small measure of comfort doesn't apply to things for which irreparable damage is done. Sure, a future administration may revamp taxes again, but there's not much that can be done if, say, you kill off a species. We may feel like we can wait some things out, but for species that are at dire risk already? Well they can't exactly sit this one through.Now a new report by the Endangered Species Coalition has outlined how Trump's proposed policies could impact 10 vulnerable animal species. The authors write that:
"Many of President Trump’s appointees, including administrators and top staff at the Department of the Interior, have worked for decades to weaken protections for imperiled wildlife. The administration has taken strong anti-wildlife policy stances, from allowing lead ammunition in national wildlife refuges to weakening protections against trafficking of endangered animals."
When we have oil and gas executives and lobbyists running the government agencies responsible for the nation's land ... well, I don't know about you, but I see evil bony hands rubbing together with diabolical snickers and lustful drooling over natural resources.
"The Interior Department under President Trump has been especially cozy with the industries that are harming the very wildlife the Department is supposed to protect," Endangered Species Coalition Executive Director Leda Huta told the Natural Resources Defense Council. "If the administration has its way, the new regulations will put these species on a fast track to extinction."
You can read the entire report (link below), but in the meantime here's a summary.
1. California condorPopulation: Fewer than 500 / Status: Critically Endangered
The greatest cause of death for the condor in the wild is lead poisoning from carrion that had been shot with lead ammo. This kills more condors than all other causes combined – yet former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rolled back an Obama-era rule banning lead ammunition in condor habitat.
2. Leatherback Sea TurtlesPopulation: Approximately 2,000 adults / Status: ESA Endangered; IUCN Critically Endangered
The report notes: "The Trump Administration’s new regulations talk about climate change with language that allows leeway when it comes to listings and how a habitat is, or isn’t, protected. These turtles will need additional protected areas to buffer them from impacts of climate change. But if this new language kicks in, it will give the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) a green light to ignore protections in that habitat altogether. And under the new regs, if the FWS deems that an area will be lost to climate change, anyway, other agencies won’t have to consult with them before taking actions there."
3. Red wolvesPopulation: Fewer than 30 in the wild; 200 in captive breeding programs / Status: Critically Endangered
See that? There are 30 red wolves left in the wild. Yet according to the report, in June of 2018, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal that would: "Reduce this wolf ’s habitat by 90 percent and allow unlimited kills, without consequence, on private and state lands. The proposal represents the largest obstacle blocking this fragile population’s
recovery. And it demonstrates the administration’s across-the-board neglect that clearly harms – and could entirely destroy – these wolves"
Do these people have no hearts?
4. HellbenderPopulation: Unknown, but estimated to have declined by up to 70 percent / Status: Under review for listing under the Endangered Species Act
This giant salamander, the largest amphibian outside of Asia, is a vital indicator of water quality. The species is under review for Endangered Species Act listing, but may be doomed. "Solely on science" has always been the guidance for listing decisions, but the Trump Administration’s "extinction plan," as the report calls it, could be the end for the hellbender. The report notes:
"The proposed regulations are tailored to dilute science by including economic analyses in the mix. Analyses with so broad a monetary range – from ten cents to tens of millions of dollars – that they are all but meaningless. Engineered solely to increase the controversy around listings. But still an influencing factor. And so economics – of logging, mining, and fossil fuel extraction – could cloud a listing for this species. And those big businesses could also cloud the hellbender’s habitat beyond repair."
5. GiraffesPopulation: Fewer than 100,000 in 2015 / Status: Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List; two subspecies categorized as Red List Endangered
Hunting and habitat encroachment have reduced giraffe populations by more than 30 percent in just three decades and they appear to have already gone extinct in seven countries. Yet the administration has ignored a petition to grant them endangered species protections. Instead, the Interior Department has created an International Wildlife Conservation Council – stocked with NRA members, go figure – that promotes trophy hunting.
6. Humboldt martenPopulation: Fewer than 400 / Status: Proposed for listing as threatened
Low population size, vast clearcuts, trapping for fur, logging in their Pacific Northwest old-growth forests, wildfires, vehicle strikes, and toxins from marijuana crops have put these kitten-sized carnivores at severe risk. Yet somehow, they currently receive no federal protections. The report notes that under court order, the Trump Administration finally proposed to list the Humboldt marten under the Endangered Species Act, but to classify it only as threatened. "And under the regs" notes the report, " a species listed as threatened no longer receives the same protections as one that’s listed as endangered. In a gift to industry, a special rule largely exempts the logging operations that have pushed the marten to the brink of extinction."
7. Rusty patched bumble beePopulation: Unknown / Status: Endangered
The rusty patched bumblebee has lost more than 90 percent of its range in the past 20 years and was set to become the first-ever bee species in the continental U.S. to be listed as endangered – the listing was to go into effect February 10, 2017. But just one day before that was to happen, Trump signed an executive order freezing any regulations passed under President Obama that had yet to take effect – which includes protection for the bee. As we wrote before on the topic, "Sorry, dying endangered bumblebee, such is life in politics..
After a legal fight, the rusty patched bumble bee was finally listed last year, but with proposed regulations that prioritize protection of habitat currently occupied by the species, it is more difficult to protect unoccupied habitat crucial to the bee’s recovery.
8. West Indian manateePopulation: 13,000 range-wide, with approximately 6,500 in U.S. waters / Status: Downlisted to Threatened in 2017 Here is the report's grim description: "Hacked by propellers. Smashed in watercraft collisions. Drowned in canal locks. Tortured and killed by a diet of fishhooks, litter, and lines. These are daily dangers we’ve imposed on these gentle ambassadors. But the biggest threat to manatees is habitat loss coming in red tides, algae blooms, and pollution. And even as we watched the impacts of these threats grow worse, the manatee was downlisted by the Trump Administration from endangered to threatened"
These big beauties are especially at risk of red tides, algae blooms and pollution. They live in scattered pockets; the new regulations say that an impact to an endangered or threatened species only has to be considered if it occurs throughout the animals' range – meaning that a pollutant hurting one population pocket but not another would not have to be considered. How convenient.
9. San Bernardino kangaroo ratPopulation: Three fragmented, isolated populations / Status: Endangered
OK, these aren't your basic NYC rats, these 4-inches cuties have giant hind feet with which they hop about. And unlike urban rats who have exuberantly carved out a home in the human environment, the kangaroo rat has suffered mightily at the hands of mining, dams, and development – it's habitat has especially been altered by flood control measures
serving residential and commercial sprawl. With the the rampant development going on in Southern California, things could get worse. And in fact, with the Trump administration’s new rules there will be much less consultation required between agencies, the report notes, "allowing them to ignore immediate and surrounding impacts of what they do – even ignore the impact of something so substantial as a new road."
10. Western yellow-billed cuckooPopulation: About 2,000 / Status: Threatened, proposed for delisting
This delightful migratory bird is suffering dearly thanks to habitat loss, so much so that it was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. Oddly enough, its critical habitat and corresponding protections still haven't been designated. Meanwhile, its remaining habitat is being threatened by water management, residential development, and livestock grazing. And then lo and behold, industrial enterprises in the bird's neck of the woods have "caught this administration’s ear," says the report, "resulting in decision-making based on politics, not science" Now, instead of habitat restoration, the Western yellow-billed cuckoo is up for a delisting.
So there you have it ... and I have a feeling this is just the beginning. Killing the world, one extinct species at a time.
You can see the whole report here: Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump Administration