Environmental activists and political opponents are furious with President Trump for revising the Endangered Species Act (ESA), accusing him of being “purposefully” and “willfully negligent” with our natural resources.
But a leading conservative environmental policy analyst says the changes amount to nothing more than common sense, and in some instances return the law to its 1973 origins.
So what actually changed? National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow Dr. Bonner Cohen says the revisions change nothing where endangered species live.
“The Endangered Species Act mandates that critical habitat be set aside for the species’ recovery The Trump administration reforms say, ‘Yes, you can designate critical habitat, but that must be habitat where a species really exists, not potential habitat.
“That distinction is very important, because it limits the amount of land that the Department of the Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service can regulate. And these regulations can be very strict. The ESA has sadly become a land use restriction mechanism,” said Cohen.
In one instance, the government ordered more than 1,500 acres declared critical habitat for the Dusky Gopher Frog in St. Tammany Parish in Louisiana. However, Cohen says there are no known Dusky Gopher Frogs in Louisiana, yet the land was off limits for development. He says the ESA is often used to stifle rural development, particularly in the western United States.
Another change would revert the Endangered Species Act to have a distinct difference between “endangered” and “threatened” species. Cohen says the government has blurred the line over the past two decades and “threatened” species get the same amount of protection despite being in a better position to survive without federal intervention.
Nonetheless, activists are slamming the president for the revisions to the Endangered Species Act.
“There has never been a presidential administration more willfully, more purposefully negligent when it comes to the stewardship of our natural resources than the Trump administration,”
said conservationist Jeff Corwin on MSNBC.
Cohen is neither surprised nor fazed by the blowback.
“Their reaction is completely predictable because these are the people who have been working hand in glove with federal officials over decades to get species added to the list, not for the purpose of saving those species but for the purpose of shutting down as much activity on rural land across America as possible,” said Cohen.
Listen to the full podcast to hear Cohen explain why the Endangered Species Act is a colossal failure even by government standards, noting that only 40 of 1,661 species have ever been taken off the endangered list and 20 of those were already extinct or didn’t belong on the list to begin with. He also explains why Americans who care for their land end up the biggest losers under the ESA.