Endangered Species Act Rollbacks and Why They Matter


Grace Degnan

Jane Merkle, Writer

Our planet is currently in the midst of its sixth mass extinction crisis, the worst species die off since the loss of the dinosaurs. This time, it is not a natural phenomenon causing the crisis: it’s humans. More specifically, it’s human carbon emissions and their effect on the global climate. We are losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural background rate. At least 10,000 species will go extinct this year and will never return. And now, we might lose species even faster. Since the Endangered Species Act was passed 45 years ago, it has protected some of the animals in danger of going extinct due to human activity, namely by habitat destruction and climate change. Animals protected by the act include tigers, blue whales, and orangutans. In July, the Trump administration proposed sweeping rollbacks of the act, allowing species to be removed from the list more easily, and making it difficult to protect the habitat of these animals.

The Trump administration is not looking to change the law itself, but instead, the regulations surrounding it. Republicans and industry groups say that the act hurts economic growth. This is because they believe that the protections place many unnecessary regulations that hurt industry groups financially. One of the proposed changes getting the most push back is to stop treating threatened species in the same way as endangered species. The threatened species would still be able to obtain crucial protection, however, it would be decided on a case by case basis. Another change getting a lot of push back is that the cost of protecting the threatened species will be considered and weighed when considering whether to give the species protection. The changes could make it difficult for species to obtain important protection. One in three wildlife species in America are in danger of extinction in the coming century. These proposed rollbacks could impact how many species survive this current mass extinction.


Here’s why the proposed rollbacks matter: Implemented correctly, with environmental concerns in mind, the changes to the act wouldn’t be very detrimental to the endangered species. But the new changes would make it easier for the current and future administration as well as industry groups to ignore the threatened and endangered species, making it detrimental to the survival of many beloved animals, including the iconic bald eagle, grizzly bear, sea otter, green sea turtle, and the gray wolf. I for one don’t want our beautiful world to lose some of its most magnificent animals. And let’s not forget: plants are endangered too. Much of our fragile ecosystem depends on plants, and this mass die off includes them. How can we condone rollbacks that would sacrifice wonderful members of our earth for the economic gain of huge industry groups? I know that I cannot.