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GOP Takes Aim At Endangered Species Act

bald eagle

The Endangered Species Act doesn't cover legislation, but if it did, it may soon add itself to the list.

Under the Trump administration, some fear the Endangered Species Act may become extinct – or at least heavily rolled back – to clear the way for more drilling, logging, and other economic development efforts.

"It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species," said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop to the Chicago Tribune. "It's been used for control of the land."

Bishop also said he "would love to invalidate" the law and would need other lawmakers' cooperation.

So far the concern for the ESA is "vague and general," according to Newsweek, but if the new administration and Republican-controlled Congress act according to Republican history, there is good reason for environmentalists to worry.

ESA History And Controversy

After two failed iterations of an Endangered Species Act in the 1960s, the current law unanimously passed in 1973 under the Nixon administration, in an attempt to save our national symbol -- the bald eagle -- which was removed from the list in 2007.

Over the years, several legislators and administrations – mostly Republicans -- have attempted to reduce its reach, claiming exploitation by environmental activists and legislative overreach.

Previous attempts at gutting the act include 88 legislative proposals in 2015, aimed at directly blocking or removing wildlife protections by placing limits on lawsuits that maintain protections for some species and force decisions on others, adopting a cap on how many species can be protected, giving states a greater say in the process.

Endangered Bumblebees And Agriculture

News of a potential roll back of the ESA comes at a time that failure to protect endangered species could have critical implications for agriculture.

Just last week, the first bumblebee species in the continental U.S. was declared endangered. Once a species that roamed the East Coast and almost 28 states, the number of rusty patched bumblebee colonies have fallen by 87 percent in the past 20 years.

Protecting and reviving the rusty patched bumblebee would be tricky, as their habitat includes the grasslands and prairies of the Upper Midwest and the Northeast, the majority of which have been converted to cropland or other agricultural use.

Rusty patched bumblebees – and many other bee species – are steadfast and productive pollinators of crops. A recent UN-backed study shows that up to $577 billion of global crop production is directly attributed to animal pollination, and that a decline in pollinator species will have dismal effects on the world's food supply.

But it's unlikely that the rusty patched bee find solace in an administration that seems to side with big ag and GMO crops, some of the biggest perpetrators in bumblebee habitat destruction and population decline through the use of monocrops, herbicides, and pesticides.

"Any species that gets in the way of a congressional initiative or some kind of development will be clearly at risk," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife and a former Fish and Wildlife Service director under President Bill Clinton, to the Washington Post.

"The political lineup is as unfavorable to the Endangered Species Act as I can remember."

Three other bumblebee species – Franklin's bumblebee, the western bumblebee, and the yellow-banded bumblebee – are expected to be added to the endangered species list in the coming months.

Read More:

  • GOP targets landmark Endangered Species Act for big changes (Chicago Tribune)
  • How Endangered Species May Fare Under Trump (Newsweek)
  • Trump noses into one of world's biggest mergers (Politico)
  • The Endangered Species Act Isn't Broken, But Is Its Implementation Faltering? (Huffington Post)

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