PROVIDENCE, RI – The Trump Administration has already curtailed several clean air, clean water, and public lands protections. This week, Trump officials unveiled plans to dismantle key protections for threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, which protects 1,600 animal and plant species. Rhode Island is home to several threatened plants and animals, including species of sea turtles, the New England cottontail rabbit, the piping plover, and the American Burying Beetle.
Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed joined scientists, conservationists, wildlife, and Roger Williams Park Zoo in warning that Trump’s bid to remove crucial protections for threatened species will have a negative impact on the environment, leading to a decline of species and the degradation of natural habitat, which in turn harms public health. The event was held at Roger Williams Park Zoo's “Faces of the Rainforest” exhibit, which is home to over thirty-five species of animals and 100 plant and flora species from the Amazon Rainforest and was funded in part through the Clean Water, Open Space and Healthy Communities Bond, which Rhode Island voters approved in 2014.
“The Trump Administration is willfully ignoring science and undermining key conservation efforts. We are here today to help protect the Endangered Species Act from President Trump; to protect our vulnerable wildlife and public lands; and to protect Rhode Island’s economy and public health. The actions of each of us -- individually and collectively -- have a tremendous impact on our immediate surroundings – and on the planet we all share. I believe that together, with smart policies and actions, we can make a powerful, positive impact. But I am deeply concerned by the negative impact the Trump Administration is having on the environment through its claw back of fundamental clean air, clean water, and public lands protections,” said Senator Reed. “The Trump Administration’s effort to weaken the Endangered Species Act wouldn’t just threaten endangered plants and animals, it could also negatively affect the quality of life for humans too.”
The Endangered Species Act rollback, announced earlier this week by Trump’s Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, would benefit many of the mining, oil, and gas companies for which Bernhardt once served as a lobbyist by allowing for roads, pipelines, mines, and other industrial projects to be developed in habitat areas that are essential to some species' survival. The Trump Administration proposal would also make it easier to remove species from the endangered list and reduce protections for threatened species.
“Without proper laws and regulations providing protections for all wildlife, they are all at risk of being seriously impacted by the actions of humans. I can’t think of a piece of legislation more important to protecting wildlife than the Endangered Species Act. The new changes to the act are supposed to streamline the process, however, in reality, all they will streamline is a path to extinction,” said Dr. Jeremy Goodman, executive director of Roger Williams Park Zoo.
“The changes that would be made to the Endangered Species Act would seriously threaten a lot of our local species as well,” said Lou Perrotti, Roger Williams Park Zoo’s director of conservation programs. “This would make it almost impossible for some of our species like spotted turtles or wood turtles -- species on the brink – it would become almost possible to get them completely federally protected. And it would make it easier for them to delist or down-list species. We owe it to our children and we owe it to their next generation to stand up and fight for the ESA because if we’ve lost nature, we’ve lost everything.”
“The Endangered Species Act is one of the most fundamental and bedrock environmental laws in the United States and we stand today in its defense,” said John Torgan, state director of The Nature Conservancy. “Our decisions in managing these species must be guided by science.”
Jed Thorp, Save the Bay’s advocacy coordinator, stated: “Rhode Island is on the frontlines of climate change and the impacts of climate change are already being felt here more than almost any other state in the country. There is frankly a lot not to like about the Trump Administration’s changes to the Endangered Species Act. But what concerns us perhaps the most is the Trump Administration’s changes to the ‘listing rule’ which would limit the government’s ability to take climate change and sea level rise into account when deciding which habitats and species should be protected. So thank you to Senator Reed for your opposition to these changes.”
The environmental advocates say all legal options to defend the Endangered Species Act must be on the table. So far, California and Massachusetts have announced legal challenges to the Trump Administration’s plans to rollback the federal Endangered Species Act’s key protections for at-risk wildlife and their habitats.