The Trump administration has announced new changes for the Endangered Species Act that environmentalists say will significantly weaken protections for some of the most imperiled species of plants and wildlife.
The new rules, first proposed last year, would undermine the 1973 conservation law so much that Eliza Donahue, senior policy specialist with Maine Audubon, calls them, “A death sentence for America’s most vulnerable wildlife.”
Among the changes, agencies can now consider economic factors when deciding to protect a species instead of simply relying on biological science. The rules also make it more difficult to designate critical habitat for protecting or restoring species and they eliminate climate change as a consideration for protection.
Both Maine Audubon and the Natural Resources Council of Maine say the changes will put species like the roseate tern, leatherback sea turtle and piping plover at risk. They argue the bald eagle would probably be extinct today without the law as it was originally written.
“There have been a lot of success stories from the Endangered Species Act including the bald eagle, which here in Maine really came back thanks to the protection of the Endangered Species Act,” says Emmie Theberge of Natural Resources Council of Maine.