Saturday, January 28, 2017
The Endangered Species Act: Uncertainty under Trump
By Cassandra Carmichael
Praising Nixon - quoting Reagan - invoking the Bible - they'll do whatever it takes to protect the most powerful weapon in the environmental arsenal. And that weapon, the ESA, takes direct aim at the market economy, individual property owners and most of the rural West. Folks are simply acting in self defense, and rightly so.
Environmental preservation is an issue that has enjoyed bountiful support across all religions and party lines for more than a century, which is why it’s troubling to see today’s leaders using the Endangered Species Act -- a bill championed by Republican President Richard Nixon meant to protect endangered species and their habitats -- as a political football. The previous Congress introduced over 250 amendments, bills, and riders aimed at stripping away provisions of the ESA, such as provisions that would limit lawsuits as a means to maintain protections for species or limit the number of species that can be protected. With the GOP firmly in control of both the House and Senate, it is likely these efforts will be renewed in earnest, and have a much better chance of succeeding. But these direct attacks on the ESA are not the only threat to our wildlife.
...As head of DOI, Rep. Zinke would oversee a department that manages hundreds of millions of acres of land, numerous bodies of water, and the countless species of wildlife that inhabit them. He’ll also be responsible for leading the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in developing policies in line with the ESA - a law that he has a history of seeking to dismantle. During his short time in Congress, he has championed expanded oil and gas development on public lands, and moved to exempt agribusiness from ESA regulations.
Most disturbingly, he has led efforts on the federal level to take away protections for some of our majestic species, including wolves and lynx, and voted to block efforts that would have limited the black market ivory trade. He is inheriting a role designed to protect America’s public lands; yet, based on his past efforts to take away protections for endangered species, how can we trust Zinke to stand up to his Republican counterparts as they try to phase out the Endangered Species Act?
...The Bible tells us the story of Noah who was called on by God to build an ark for all species, big and small. The Endangered Species Act is today’s ark. Once again, we must prioritize saving each and every species before disaster strikes and opportunity is lost. This is, in the words of President Reagan, “our great moral responsibility.”
The National Religious Partnership for the Environment’s mission is to educate the public and policy-makers about with it means to uphold this responsibility in our daily lives, and how we can value the importance of every species present on this Earth. To this end, last month on Capitol Hill, we hosted the fourth in a series of roundtables and events on species protection featuring science and faith leaders -- and in some instances, endangered animals themselves.