The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been under relentless attack for years, from both past Congresses and throughout the Trump Administration. Agriculture, including grazing, extractive industries, such as mining, oil and gas, and some unscrupulous developers consider the ESA an impediment to profits. Their lobbyists donate money to elected officials and those officials propose legislation and policy that weakens the Act. Despite the overwhelming popularity of the ESA with the American people, and the importance of robust biodiversity to healthy ecosystems, the attacks continue relentlessly and occasionally succeed.
Threats to the Act
Recent examples of the assaults on the ESA include several sweeping final rule changes in 2019. These rules weakened the consultation, listing and recovery provisions of the Act. Congressional members that support the ESA fought back by introducing the Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish Act that would void the rules. But the assaults did not stop, with new rules from the Trump Administration that weaken the critical habitat provisions in the law. Congress has also threatened to delist species in legislation and the Trump Administration may issue a final rule removing protections for wolves from the ESA. The Endangered Species Coalition (ESC), our member groups, and the public are working to block, stop or overturn these actions.
The Road Ahead
The ESA has also been severely underfunded for a decade. Certain members of Congress have refused to fully fund the law, instead complaining that it does not work. Without adequate funding there is not enough federal staff to process all the imperiled species that need protections nor enough money to implement recovery plans and get more species on the road to recovery. The ESC will continue to fight for more funding in the traditional appropriations process, and ensure good jobs that protect and recover wildlife will be included in any future stimulus packages as America recovers from the pandemic.