Washington, DC–As the Trump administration works to finalize a set of rules to weaken the Endangered Species Act, a new report released today lists 10 animals threatened by the administration’s existing and proposed policies.
Draft Department of Interior rules issued in July would harm these 10 declining species by making it harder to designate critical habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife and to protect species impacted by climate change. The proposed rules would also make it easier to remove listed species and reduce protections for threatened species.
Compiled by the Endangered Species Coalition, the report, titled “Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump Administration,” highlights species that would suffer under the proposed rules:
- California condor
- Humboldt marten
- Sea turtles: leatherback and loggerhead
- Red wolf
- Rusty patched bumble bee
- San Bernardino kangaroo rat
- West Indian manatee
- Western yellow-billed cuckoo
For the report, the Animal Welfare Institute nominated the critically endangered red wolf – the most endangered canid on Earth and one of its rarest mammals. Red wolves, who once roamed throughout the southeastern United States, fell victim to intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat during the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1980, the species was declared extinct in the wild. From a captive breeding program, members of the species were reintroduced in the wild in 1987, into a five-county area in northeastern North Carolina. The recovery program became a global model as the reintroduced wolves thrived. At one point, over 130 wolves roamed the designated recovery area.
Yet today, due to killing by hunters who mistake red wolves for coyotes and the politically motivated decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to abandon the recovery program, only two or three breeding pairs remain in the wild. AWI has successfully challenged the USFWS in court for its failure to protect the species.
Under the proposed regulations, the Trump administration would be allowed to justify delisting the red wolf based on any new genetic information, even though red wolf genetics are still under active scientific investigation and no scientific consensus has been reached. Separately, in June 2018, the USFWS announced a proposal that would reduce habitat in the red wolf recovery area by 90 percent and allow an unlimited number of red wolves to be killed, without consequence, on private and state lands outside of the recovery area. That proposal was met with near-unanimous opposition from the public. A full 99.9 percent of more than 108,000 public comments received expressed opposition to the proposal and instead favored strong federal protections for red wolves.
“The wild red wolf population has declined by over 70 percent in the past four years alone, falling from approximately 100 individuals in 2014 to fewer than 30 individuals in 2018, largely due to government mismanagement,” said Johanna Hamburger, wildlife attorney at AWI. “Taken together, these proposals all but guarantee that red wolves will once again be driven to extinction in the wild in less than a decade.”
A committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations and decided which species should be included in the final report. The full report, along with photos and additional species information, can be viewed and downloaded at http://endangered.org/extinction-plan. The Endangered Species Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years’ reports are also available on the coalition’s website.
Scientific consensus indicates that we are in the sixth wave of extinction. The main tool in the United States to battle this human-caused crisis is the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which has been very effective in keeping species from sliding into extinction.
The ESA is a landmark conservation law that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (92-0 in the Senate, and 394-4 in the House) and was signed by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 45 years ago. In 2017, more than 400 organizations signed a letter to members of Congress opposing efforts to weaken the ESA, noting the law has a 99 percent success rate, including some of the country’s most exciting wildlife recoveries, such as bald eagles, humpback whales, American alligators, Channel Island foxes, Tennessee purple coneflowers, and more.
Although the Trump administration and some members of Congress have attempted to weaken the ESA, public opinion research indicates that the law continues to draw broad, bipartisan, public support. A 2015 poll conducted by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of American voters across all political, regional and demographic lines support the law.
Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, firstname.lastname@example.org