Trump and Endangered Species Act: Proposed Rules Would End Automatic Protections for Animals, Plants

A newborn Asian elephant, an endangered species, is pictured with members of its family at Planckendael Zoo in Mechelen, Belgium. The new rules would potentially limit habitat protections and end automatic protections for plants and animals that are threatened. YVES HERMAN/REUTERS

The Donald Trump administration announced Thursday a new plan around the protection of endangered species.

According to the administration, the newly proposed rules would simplify and improve how the Endangered Species Act is used. This is the latest in a long battle to change the Endangered Species Act.

The new rules would potentiallylimit the designation of critical habitats and end the same protections for threatened species as endangered species. In addition, when federal government actions could harm a species, inter-agency consultations would be streamlined, according to the Associated Press.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife and a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told The Washington Post, "Unfortunately, the sweeping changes being proposed by the Trump administration include provisions that would undercut the effectiveness of the ESA and put species at risk of extinction. The signal being sent by the Trump administration is clear: Protecting America's wildlife and wild lands is simply not on their agenda." On the other hand, Republican lawmakers claim the Endangered Species Act isn't successful in restoring species and only limits economic activities.

The Washington Post also reports that the administration also aims to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service change language the currently guides government officials not to consider economic impacts when determining protections for wildlife.

In a study published today, scientists studied if Americans still support this supposedly controversial act. The research was led by Jeremy Bruskotter, an associate professor of environment and natural resources at Ohio State University. Bruskotter and his team found that only one in 10 Americans oppose the act, after a survey of 1,287 people. They also determined that around four out of five Americans support the Endangered Species Act. The scientists found that 74 percent of conservatives support the Endangered Species Act, despite the Republican lawmakers' efforts to change it.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services released a statement in support of the proposed revisions. "The Trump Administration is dedicated to being a good neighbor and being a better partner with the communities in which we operate. One thing we heard over and over again was that ESA implementation was not consistent and often times very confusing to navigate," Greg Sheehan, Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said. "We are proposing these improvements to produce the best conservation results for the species while reducing the regulatory burden on the American people."

The agencies invite the public to share their thoughts on the changes.

In a statement, the leader of the Endangered Species Act study, Bruskotter said, "In the 1990s and 2000s, a typical year saw roughly five attempts to amend the act or curtail its protections. But from 2011 to 2015, there were about 33 legislative attacks per year—and there have been almost 150 in the last two years alone."