The Endangered Species Act, signed into law by President Nixon in 1973, is arguably one of the least controversial laws on the books.
A series of polls in recent years has shown incredible bipartisan support at least 85% of Americans in favor of it.
Yet there has been growing attempts by Republicans to gut the act, and President Trump administration last week made a reckless attack on it.
More than 1,200 species that are endangered and near extinction are protected, as are nearly 400 species listed as threatened.
If Trump’s plan to rewrite how the act is administered survives court challenges, it will make it harder to protect threatened species and to protect habitat that endangered and threatened animals need.
The Endangered Species Act is the reason Minnesotans and other Americans can now see bald eagles in plentiful numbers.
It helped restore the number of grizzly bears, which are still on the threatened list. The Minnesota state bee — the rusty patched bumblebee — also benefits from its threatened listing.
The act requires that decisions to list an endangered or threatened species must be based on science with no reference to potential economic effects if an animal is listed.
Trump’s new rules would direct that a cost-benefit analysis be done during the listing process. The administration says the economic information would be informational only, but it is undoubtedly aimed at giving corporations and developers more ammunition to oppose protections.
The Endangered Species Act also prohibits anyone from killing or harming endangered species. Threatened species have always had that same protection unless the Fish and Wildlife Service made special allowances to the contrary. Trump’s rules would allow the killing of threatened species unless Fish and Wildlife specifically writes rules protecting some of the animals listed.
That is a foolish change in policy that would only increase the risk that animals listed as threatened would soon become endangered.
The Center for Biological Diversity, which supports protections for endangered species, found that in the 1990s and early 2000s there were only a few bills introduced in Congress each year aimed at chipping away at the Endangered Species Act.
But in the first two years of the Trump presidency, Republicans have introduced well over 100 changes to try and gut protections.
The courts may halt the administration’s attempt to weaken the act, but Congress can and should use its oversight powers to stop the rule changes. GOP lawmakers from many states that have seen the benefits of the act and who listen to their constituents should help form a bipartisan coalition to stop the Endangered Species Act from being eviscerated.