President Trump came to power on a wave of red hats emblazoned with the phrase Make America Great Again (and with a little help from Russia), but making America great again apparently doesn’t include the symbol of America itself.
The Trump administration today announced sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act, rolling back protections for animals in favor of corporations that want to build luxury condos, mine, drill for oil, harvest timber, or otherwise develop the land that animals live on.
Under the revisions to the act, regulators will now be allowed to weigh “economic factors” when considering whether animals and their habitats deserve protection, the New York Times reports. Such considerations had been prohibited since the law was passed, in 1973; instead, determinations had to be made based solely on science. The changes essentially make it easier for corporations to argue that their economic interests are more important than animal habitats. The bill’s language has also been edited to allow regulators to disregard the impact of climate change.
The move should not come as a surprise, since Interior Secretary David Bernhardt wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the Endangered Species Act (which is credited with saving bald eagles, grizzly bears, wolves, California condors, and peregrine falcons) is nothing more than an “unnecessary regulatory burden” on companies. The act currently protects more than 1,600 species in the United States and its territories.
Naturally, environmental groups have already denounced the changes as “disastrous.” The news is particularly horrifying in the wake of the United Nations’ warning that one million species could be driven to extinction due to human pressures and climate change, the fact that half the world’s animal population has died off since 1970, and the fact that land use is threatening another 1,700 species with extinction.