Protect the Endangered Species Act From Dangerous Attacks

The ESA works because it's founded on science. Now, the Trump Administration is trying to weaken that foundation.

Photo: Proyecto Asis/Flickr

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), is a landmark piece of legislation designed to protect species on the brink of extinction - a law of last resort for endangered species. The law has succeeded because of its solid grounding in science. But Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is leading the efforts to dismantle the scientific basis of the law. This attempt to politicize the process and favor special interests is harmful to the country's health, safety, and sustainability.

The agencies tasked with ensuring species preservation—the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)—are proposing a rule to make listing decisions based on cost and remove considering climate change, which we know is already affecting species. This rule could undercut the scientific basis for the Endangered Species Act and weaken the law's effectiveness and integrity.

Species, land conservation, and human health and wellbeing are being forfeited, and science is being sidelined, for the sake of corporate and political interests. Protecting biodiversity is our responsibility, and each of us depends on the functioning natural ecosystems that make our lives possible.

Take action now!

You have an opportunity to provide input and shape the outcome of these proposed changes during the open comment period.

Add your name to a public comment that calls on the FWS and NMFS to protect endangered species, land, and human well-being and not go forward with the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act. Click here to add your name.

A closer look:

The Endangered Species Act is effective because it relies on the best available science to protect our nation's species from extinction and to preserve the healthy ecosystems that support us all. Using the best available scientific resources as the law was designed to do, we have prevented the irreversible destruction of many species and their habitats. In fact, this landmark, bipartisan law has succeeded in preventing 99 percent of listed species from going extinct and led to the recovery of iconic species such as the American alligator, bald eagle, and grizzly bear.

The proposed rule, “Endangered and Threatened Species: Listing Species and Designating Critical Habitat,” jointly issues by FWS and NMFS, aims to sideline science and the public interest in favor of special interests gains for oil and gas development by including cost and removing potential climate change impacts from consideration in listing species.

The proposal to inject "economic considerations" when listing species as threatened or endangered, instead of making it a purely scientific decision, puts the listing process at elevated risk for politicization. Further, the proposal to prohibit the agencies from exploring climate change-related factors—such as drought, habitat loss, and heat impacts—would completely constrain the agencies' ability to do their job of fully understanding "foreseeable future" consequences on a species' endangerment.

This isn't just about animals, this is about respecting the role of science in how we make choices that affect species, land, and people.

Want to do more?

The public comment period is an opportunity for the public to educate agencies on the consequences of proposals. Use this opportunity to submit a personalized comment calling on the FWS and NMFS to protect endangered species, land, and human wellbeing and not go forward with the proposed changes. The deadline for written comment is fast approaching. Written comments must be submitted to the regulatory docket by September 24 – submit yours today!

Go to the public comment page on Regulations.gov for the proposed policy (docket FWS-HQ-ES-2018-0006-0001) and click on the “Comment Now!” button. Make sure all documents contain your name and contact information. Be sure to submit your comment by September 24, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. ET and check your email for a receipt confirmation. While a submission can be typed directly into the website, uploading a separate document may be easier for you to edit, save, and submit.

Click here for guidance on writing effective public comments.

What to address in your comment

In your comment, address the benefits of protecting species from extinction for the public and the broader environment. Also, address the potential negative impacts, the flaws in the agencies’ justifications for their proposed changes to implementing the Endangered Species Act, overlooked impacts, and intended or unintended consequences. Your comment becomes part of the official record for this rulemaking. It’s a key part of our fight moving forward, including future legal action.

Talking Points:

  • The Endangered Species Act is our nation’s preeminent conservation law aimed at protecting our nation’s biodiversity and preventing extinction.
  • The law has been widely successful – preventing 99 percent of listed species from going extinct.
  • The Endangered Species Act has aided in the recovery of iconic species like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the manatee.
  • The Endangered Species Act is effective because it relies on the best-available science.
  • Earlier this year, nearly 1,500 scientists urged Congress to protect the Endangered Species Act and its strong, scientific foundation.
  • The status of a species is not a matter of cost, but of biology. Cost is already taken into account when deciding how to protect a species, but in making listing decisions, the agencies should be guided by the relevant science, not by cost.
  • Climate change is not the same as environmental variability. The ongoing effects of global warming are observable and quantifiable in their potential harm to species and their habitats. To not account for a changing climate in listing decisions is to ignore a critical factor relevant to the listing criteria.

Take further action:

Right now, we’re worried the most about this proposal. But there are two other creative attacks on the science behind the Endangered Species Act, so when you’ve finished your first comment, you can take action by commenting on these too! Thanks for defending science and biodiversity.

Submit a personalized comment calling on the FWS and NMFS to protect endangered species, land, and human well-being and not go forward with the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act. Your voice is needed to protect the health and safety of the American people and our biodiversity!

Once you’ve submitted a comment, let us know by filling out this report back form. Please include if and how this guidance has been useful.

The proposed amendments attack the development and implementation of a law that benefits people, the environment, and threatened and endangered species – act today to fight back!

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