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The Endangered Species Act is Endangered

The Trump administration’s proposed changes to the federal Endangered Species Act would undermine our ability to protect the biodiversity of the redwood forests. We cannot let this happen.

The California condor is listed as "Critically Endangered." Pacific Southwest Region USFWS, Flickr Creative Commons
The California condor is listed as “Critically Endangered.” Pacific Southwest Region USFWS, Flickr Creative Commons
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was signed into law in 1973, and is a bedrock statute in land protection and conservation. The intention of the ESA is to prevent wildlife species extinction, help imperiled species recover, and support ecosystem-based habitat protection.

Many credit the passage of the ESA to the efforts of Rachel Carson, renowned conservationist and writer, who authored the groundbreaking book, Silent Spring, which detailed the impacts of pesticide use on bird species. Faced with the rapid decline of wildlife species in the 1970s, the public and lawmakers were moved by Carson’s chronicling of widespread harm to natural systems and animals caused by chemical pesticides. The modern environmental movement was created in this moment.

The Department of the Interior is working to revise regulatory language in the ESA. The alarming proposal would allow for the analysis of economic impacts when considering listing species or considering protections — a reversal of the current statute. It would also remove the requirement that federal agencies consult scientists before approving permits for extractive industries like oil and gas drilling. Finally, the proposal would remove the “blanket rule” under the ESA that allows for the protection of threatened, similar species when conveying protections for endangered species.

Overall, this approach takes a case-by-case view on threatened and endangered species protections and weakens the input of scientists and wildlife agencies in managing habitat for species protection. In addition, several members of Congress are pushing a package of bills forward that would make several changes to the ESA, including easing the process to undo federal protections for threatened and endangered species.

Marbled murrelet is listed as Endangered. Photo by Tim Lenz, Flickr Creative Commons
Marbled murrelet is listed as “Endangered.” Photo by Tim Lenz, Flickr Creative Commons
Endangered species like the marbled murrelet or California condor are important indicators of forest health, and their protection is a critical driver in our work to protect and restore redwood forests. The rapid decline of the marbled murrelet is linked to the loss of old-growth coast redwood forest habitat. The California condor is one of the first species listed under the ESA, and its successful recovery trajectory is because of the protections afforded by the ESA. The first nesting pair of California condors found after the bird was brought to the brink of extinction in the late 1980s was in the coast redwood forests of Big Sur. You can read more about the reintroduction of the condor to California’s redwood forests on our Giant Thoughts blog.

We at Save the Redwoods League urge you to make your voice heard so that we can protect the integrity of the Endangered Species Act.

Please call your member of Congress (external link), and let them know that the ESA Modernization Package (external link) is an unacceptable step in the wrong direction for America’s imperiled wildlife species and overall biodiversity, especially in the face of a changing climate. The proposed bills would, among other things, weaken citizen-led initiatives to ensure species are protected under the law; would make it easier for the federal government to de-list protected species; and would give more power to state and local authorities in determining whether or not species are appropriate for listing under the ESA.

You can also submit a comment to the Department of the Interior (external link) opposing the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act. The deadline for public comment is September 24, 2018. Use the web portal linked above to submit your opposition to the three regulatory changes proposed by the Trump administration. Your comments will be part of the public record.

Mountain Yellow-legged Frog is listed as Endangered. Photo credit: Rick Kuyper, USFWS
Mountain Yellow-legged Frog is listed as “Endangered.” Photo credit: Rick Kuyper, USFWS
The proposed revisions to the ESA represent a serious threat to the work of conservation organizations across the country. The changes would make it more difficult to protect critical habitat; would reduce protections for threatened species; and would make it more difficult to protect species impacted by climate change. After more than 40 years of success, the ESA represents conservation law that works.

Stand for the redwoods, and oppose these changes to the Endangered Species Act today!

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About Shelana deSilva

Shelana recently joined Save the Redwoods League as the Director of Government Affairs and Public Funding. She has a strong track record helping national and statewide nonprofits develop partnerships, lead campaigns and initiatives, and secure public funding to achieve their missions.



Giant sequoia in North Grove, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway, California. Photo by age fotostock / Alamy

Bring a Giant Sequoia into Your Classroom

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Everyone at Save the Redwoods League is so excited about the new giant sequoia curriculum for K-12 classrooms offered by the California State Parks PORTS® program, which stands for Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students. This distance learning program features the giant sequoia of Calaveras Big Trees State Park in its new unit and uses an innovative system incorporating interactive media and virtual reality platforms to teach about the ecosystems, wildlife, and history of California State Parks.

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