Leading a Law to Extinction: Endangered Species and the GOP

The Northern Spotted Owl is listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act

In its first few weeks in power, the Trump administration has already targeted NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Parks Service, and the USDA. Now they’re after the Endangered Species Act.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973 to protect animal species that are under threat of extinction and to protect the ecosystems they live in. It was passed because Congress understood the importance of science, ecology, and the dangerous implications of losing precious ecosystems and species. This bill wasn’t just supported by the majority—it passed with a 92-0 vote. The Endangered Species Act is the greatest weapon protecting biodiversity against big corporations and political greed. For decades corporations and conservative politicians have threatened to defund, weaken, or repeal the act, but the current administration’s style and bent are proving a legitimate threat; according to the Center for Biological Diversity, in the last six years over 230 pieces of GOP-backed legislation have been proposed to undermine the ESA—now, with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, the fate of environmental protection is far more insecure.

A common phrase heard from the Trump administration, usually in regards to the Affordable Care Act, is “repeal and replace.” The Endangered Species Act is no stranger to those words. In December Republicans proposed scrapping the act altogether and replacing with a “better” more convenient-to-their-agendas act.

Over time, however, repealing the act has proven to be a challenge. Repealing such an act shows a blatant disregard for the beautiful living creatures and ecosystems of our planet, and truly reveals the greed of the lobbies and politicians in their pockets. So how could this act be changed less dramatically, but with similar results? The answer for Republicans seems to be to transform the law into something so useless that it becomes extinct itself.

Last week a Senate hearing was held to “modernize” the Endangered Species Act. While such alteration wouldn’t terminate the act completely, it would restructure it to cater to big corporations in the natural resource exploitation business. Limiting the number of species and ecosystems that can be protected at one time or lifting restrictions on how protected land can be used to avoid lawsuits are just some of the ways the GOP is hoping to desecrate this law into extinction. The ESA, a protection that some environmentalists and scientists say isn’t strong enough, has too much “red tape” for Republican Senator John Brasso of Wyoming, who says the act prevents him from creating new jobs. Rob Bishop, a Republican Congressman from Utah thinks we should get rid of the act completely, supporting a bill to “prioritize people over ideology” by placing federally managed land under the states’ control, banning the creation of national monuments, and removing existing protections on national monuments and protected places.

It’s true that opposition to the act has existed since its passing, and will continue to exist so long as greed and big business exist. Want to help protect the Endangered Species Act? There are many great wildlife organizations that genuinely work to protect and fight for the health and safety of the environment and species, and that are now up against a powerful (and, I might add, delusional) administration. Organizations like the National Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, or the Wildlife Conservation Network are all valuable advocates. You can also sign any of the hundreds of petitions from EarthJustice.org, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Endangered Species Coalition. This isn’t about putting animals ahead of people. It’s about understanding the complex web of life necessary for a healthy planet.