Trump administration weakens Endangered Species Act

August 13, 2019 • 10:00 am

Everything the Trump administration does seems aimed in the wrong direction, but as a biologist, I’m really pissed off at this latest bit of stupidity. Read the NPR or NYT articles below (click on screenshots) to see the latest debacle:


Here are some of the changes. The new regulations:

  • weaken protections for species listed as “threatened”: one step below “endangered”;
  • allow future listings to be based partly on economic assessments (the NYT says, “for instance, lost revenue from a prohibition on logging a critical habitat”) rather than on science alone. This is a first, and something the original Act aimed to avoid.
  • make it easier to remove species from the “endangered” list;
  • limit the nature and amount of habitats are considered when deciding whether a species is listed as “endangered”. Environmental groups claim that this will make it harder to protect species at risk from warming climates, which alters where they live and how much space they occupy; and
  • give the government a lot more discretion about interpreting the phrase “foreseeable future” when deciding whether to list species. This would allow the government to largely ignore impending threats to species’ existence, one of them being climate change. In other words, what could happen in the future can be ignored when deciding which species to save.

The Trump administration claims that this will “help conservation efforts” (Interior Secretary David Bernhardt) and “ease the regulatory burden on the American public, without sacrificing our species’ protection and recovery goals” (Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross). Those are, of course, lies. This is not about conserving species, but about making it easier for ranchers, oil drillers, and developers to take over land at the expense of its animal and plant inhabitants. Not a single change increases protection for species.

The motivations for this change are transparent, and become even more transparent when you see that, as NPR reports, “Republican lawmakers and industry groups celebrated the revisions. . . .”  Frankly, the government’s defense of these changes, which are a pack of lies, and its refusal to even acknowledgethe real motivations, sicken me. This is just one more REM bout in the continuing nightmare that is Trump.

But not everyone is going gentle into this bad plight. According to the Associated Press, both Maine and Massachusetts, along with several conservation groups, said they’ll sue the government over these latest changes. Should we sign petitions? See the next post.

h/t: Ken

76 thoughts on “Trump administration weakens Endangered Species Act

    1. On July 8th, 2019, this is what Trump had to say regarding how his administration is treating the environment.

      “We’re working hard, maybe harder than all previous administrations, maybe almost all of them.”

      Yessir. Getting out of the Paris climate agreement took extremely hard work.

      Ladies and Gentlemen, we are living in opposite land.

  1. The Trump administration claims that this will “help conservation efforts” …

    In related news, the Ministry of Truth announced that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.

  2. Trump brings much danger.
    Destruction of our environment is of most concern to me.
    I wish this were screamed from the rooftops!

  3. This is just one more REM bout in the continuing nightmare that is Trump.

    But not everyone is going gentle into this bad plight.

    That’s two pretty good ones, back-to-back, boss. Like Johnny Vander Meer’s 1938 no-hitters. 🙂

  4. SOME of these changes might be warranted. But I do not trust the Trump Administration to make thoughtful and well reasoned changes. For obvious reasons.

  5. How is it tRump can change the Act? Doesn’t it have to go through Congress?

    Or does the Act just include some schedules or something that is left to the mercy of the Administration?


    1. As usual, Trump will circumvent Congress with an executive order. And remember what he said about Obama’s use of executive orders:

      Why is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?


      Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress.

      If hypocrisy was a crime, Trump would be the kingpin.

    2. The actual classifying is done in the Code of Federal Regulations and enforced by the US Department of the Interior — the “regulatory and administrative state” the Bannonite wing of the Republican Party has long wanted to dismantle. Trump is just the empty vessel who signs the orders that permit this to happen so as to keep that segment of his base mollified.

      I doubt Trump has ever given a moment’s serious thought to the Endangered Species Act — why should he start now, as to this or any other matter of public policy? — beyond hearing that his donors and supporters think the ESA is “bad for bidness.”

  6. It’s a new quality that the USA now traffics in open, brazen lies. I think that’s something that used to set (Western) Democracies apart from, say, Russia. It’s astounding. Americans are mistaken that this is all on Trump. It would be nice if he could be made the goat that carries all the sin out into the desert, but I’m afraid that is wishful thinking. The new administration will have to show serious efforts to rebuilt what was broken.

    1. What I find deeply depressing is that Hong Kong is at this very moment desperately struggling for some degree of autonomy and is getting the collective shit kicked out of it by China-sponsored goons while its quisling politicians look the other way.

      And what is the west doing? Nothing. Where can they look to for some kind of sinew-stiffening example? Boris Johnson? Donald Trump??
      In the past(not that long past either) the UK and America would surely have been the two countries that HK would look to, for historical and ideological reasons, to support their push for freedom. Now? No chance. People here just complain that flights are delayed in Heathrow. Boris Johnson doesn’t give a shit. Trump’s comment was basically ‘it’ll sort itself out’. Yes, we know it will – that’s what’s so dangerous about it you bell-end.

      This stuff really matters. It can seem intangible, the idea of inspiring other countries through your own example, absurd that something so abstract could really have an effect on millions of people’s minds, and stiffen their resolve against batons and riot shields – but I absolutely believe it does. Our political class is failing the rest of the world and it disgusts me.

        1. I aim to please.

          Incidentally, it reminds me of a funny story about the Manchester United/City rivalry. One of Man City’s most famous and well-loved ex-players was a guy called Colin Bell, and when a new stand was being built in their stadium fans were petitioned for their choice of what it would be called.

          Since these stands always end up being colloquially referred to as ‘the —- end'(eg. ‘the Stretford end’ at Manchester United, or ‘the Kop end’ at Liverpool) a whole bunch of Man Utd supporters bombarded the petition with votes for Colin Bell, so that the stand would be named after him and would be forever known as the Bell end.

          My guess is that the story’s a bit too good to be true, but I love it anyway.

          1. Funny. But what exactly is the “end” In the football stadium? I thought the coaches etc. sat on opposite sides?

            1. It just means one of the opposite ends of the stadium, lengthwise. I think. I’ve never really thought it through that much.

              Eg. when the Utd crowd are loud people talk about “the Stretford end” being in fine voice.

              (The coaches sit on opposite sides, but that doesn’t make any difference.)

              By comparison with most football humour it was a pretty sophisticated joke but I regret getting into it now because it rather ruined the effect of my comment – and I am genuinely angry about what’s happening in Hong Kong.

              I think it’s a disgrace that the west is so useless in every way to the protesters. The very least we could do is offer words of support and even that’s too much for this generation of leaders.

              1. So I guess the point is that the different teams’ fans sit at opposite ends?
                Agree that the Hong Kong situation is awful and Boris and Donnie clueless.

      1. The quisling politicians ARE the China-sponsored goons. One of the lawmakers had his photo taken shaking hands with one of the goons that terrorized a train station on 21/7, and still nothing has come of it.

        The police were spotted LEAVING the station just as the goons came in. Our emergency hotlines hung up on people calling, and the police station had its gates closed. The police arrived at the station conveniently after the goons had all left, and they were spotted leaving through police barricades.

        It took them 4 days to arrest 11 of those fuckers, but 5 seconds to arrest 11 protesters who weren’t doing anything apart from protesting.

        We’ve seen China-planted spies escalating the protests by throwing bricks and breaking the LegCo building windows, and there were no arrests.

        On 12/6 police fired tear gas without warning, and nothing came out of “independent” investigations.

        And just a few days ago, they shot people with nonlethal rounds at point blank range, pushed people down a fucking moving escalator, and shot someone in the eye from within 10 meters.

        The world is fooled by a mistranslation of 暫緩, which means the extradition bill will be temporarily slowed down, not suspended as the foreign press were told, and no one is doing ANYTHING about it.

        TL;DR The police are acting identically to a gang and the government dishonestly translated their press release to paint us in an unreasonable light.


        1. Are you saying you live in Hong Kong?

          Is there anything worthwhile that people like me can actually do to help?

          1. Where do you live? If it’s the US, talk to your House Representative stating your support for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which requires HK’s autonomy to be reviewed every year to see if it still qualifies for its special economic status.

            Other than that, spread the word.


          2. Ah, trusty reddit comes to my aid once again:

            If you want to help the people in Hong Kong and are US, EU or UK citizen:

            * \[US\] Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act 2019 \[[H.R. 3289](, [S. 1838](\]. You can use this [website]( to send a pre-composed letter to your representative.
            * \[EU\] Joint Motion for a Resolution on the situation in Hong Kong \[[RC-9-2019-0013\_EN](\]
            * \[UK\] Letter to your MP to uphold the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration [[letter](]

            Or just spread the words about the situation in Hong Kong, that’s already very helpful.

            This is an example where your involvement helped the people of Hong Kong. [[US passed Senate bill to sanction Chinese and Hong Kong officials violating the fundamental human rights and freedoms (Sec. 6209)](]

            We are forever grateful.

            Sorry for the formatting. I copied it directly from a comment.


  7. Filling your car with spotted owls and bald eagles won’t make it run.

    I read a report from the Cato Institute which said this initiative could save drivers as much as 0.083 cents per month over a 10-year period.

    1. See, this was my problem- filling mine with owls and eagles. And of course now they all have to be unleaded owls and eagles, so hope that gets fixed too!

      But now that I’ll be saving .083 cents a month I can still not afford healthcare. But maybe I can start a savings account and one day it will be possible! Man, these deregulators sure are making a difference.

      1. Compared to Trump, Nixon’s a candidate to have his visage on Mount Rushmore.

        And Nixon was a political thug always to be found on the low road, a rat continually scrambling to get back aboard a sinking ship.

        1. Sam Harris made the claim that a name drawn out of a hat would have been a better choice for POTUS. Any American citizen.

          I think he could’ve gone further and not made it so species-specific. Give me a nice cat or dog, or a cheeky little baby chimp with a heartwarming smile, stick it in the White House with a good team of advisors, and I still think that would be better for America. Not by much, but still.

          Serious question now – do you agree?

          Do you think a baby chimp, with the right team of advisors, would make for a better president?

          Or would the lack of directed leadership and ability to calm people during national emergencies mean that Trump would be the better choice?

          Would the office of president be sullied from that point onwards(especially if the chimp was a success)? Or would its relative calmness and cute, friendly disposition make it preferable to the divisiveness and toxicity of Trump?

          Interested to hear opinions on this, whether it’s yes or no.

          1. Dunno about the Oval Office; but I think a bonobo would make a tip-top ambassador to the UN. They seem to have the touch when it comes to keepin’ everything copacetic.

            1. Yes, but we already have normal ambassadors. So replacing one of them with a bonobo would be a step backwards, even if it would be amusing for a while.

              My question was whether a baby chimp would be just as good or better than Trump as a leader, and I am deadly serious(well, 99% serious), because I’m not sure of the answer.

              I think taking these kinds of ridiculous questions seriously and following their implications through is a good way of seeing just how unsuited for the top job Trump is, because there are plenty of departments in which – and I’m not joking at all – a baby chimp would make for a better leader/figurehead.

              1. Great question, great thought experiment. However, would the baby chimp be able to complete his (or her) term? How long are baby chimps cute and manageable until they turn into sometimes aggressive, immensely powerful animals? We can’t very well have President Baby Chimp ripping the genitals off Xi Jinping or something. Though that may be a more effective tactic for dealing with China. It’s more than what this current Administration is doing.

    1. I have a pet theory that he hates windmills so much because they always ruin his shot in crazy golf.

      1. Is “crazy golf” what we in the US call “miniature golf”? A mini golf course with a bunch of clever obstacles that hinder and delight?

        1. That’s it…I always thought it was called crazy golf everywhere.

          ‘Hinder and delight’… That’s great.

            1. The place in Pennsylvania where we used to go in the summer and where my parents retired had so-called crazy golf On Labor Day weekend. People of all ages dressed in crazy outfits, e.g. Guys in girls bathing suits, clown wigs, etc., and were divided into teams of maybe five. Each person was assigned a different club and you had to play the nine holes with only your assigned club, one team member after the other. So you often ended up driving with a putter Or putting with a big Bertha. Most people were barefoot and there were dogs galore. Sometimes sprinklers suddenly went off on the greens and people threw in exploding golf balls. My kind of golf🤓

              1. Damn merilee…now we’re talkin’ Crazy Golf! I’ve had a similar. Back hurts just talking golf!

    1. Why does a dog lick its balls? Because it can! Plus he gets to piss off Democrats, liberals and environmentalists everywhere. He is far more motivated by the power he has to do down his opponents than he is by the notion of doing something that might actually benefit the whole nation.

  8. One new species is now up for inclusion under the Endangered Species Act. Formerly known as homo sapiens, it can now be renamed homo not-so-sapien.

  9. Andy Borowitz – Not the News:

    One day after the White House took steps to weaken the Endangered Species Act, an irate polar bear has demanded a face-to-face meeting with Donald J. Trump.

    1. Now my new favourite daydream will be thinking about a polar bear meeting Trump in the Oval. In fact, maybe this will be my mind’s new “happy place” to go to when I’m stressed.

  10. What Mother Nature gets for not cutting a fat check to the Trump Inauguration Committee, the way the lobbyists for all the habitat-despoilers did.

    1. Yeah, Mother Nature only offers fresh air, water and sustenance. Stuff that he considers free. Free in two senses: free of charge and free to do with it anything he wants.

  11. “Countries should be strengthening their laws protecting endangered species, not weakening them, international conservationists said Tuesday, after US President Donald Trump’s administration announced plans to alter the country’s Endangered Species Act.

    Amid growing global alarm over the accelerating pace of species extinction, leading figures from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) called for stronger protections of animals and plants under threat.

    “Parties are all encouraged to strengthen their wildlife laws. We need more tight wildlife laws, not to weaken them,” Juan Carlos Vasquez, head of legal affairs and compliance regulatory services at CITES, told reporters in Geneva.”

    “[CITES Secretary General Ivonne Higuero:] Higuero stressed that the announced US changes may not fall under the CITES convention, which only covers endangered species subjected to international trade, or listed as so threatened that trade is banned or very closely controlled.

    If the changes do impact any of the species on the most-endangered lists, “of course the convention would have to take some steps,” she told reporters.

    She said there was currently widespread concern “about what is happening with the extinction of species”, following a UN report in May indicating that one million species are rapidly being pushed to the brink of extinction.

    She was speaking ahead of a meeting of the 183 parties to CITES, scheduled to kick off in Geneva on Saturday.”

    [ ]

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