The Trump administration recently revealed changes to the Endangered Species Act. Under the prior act, 1,600 plant and animal species were protected and 99 percent had not gone extinct, including grizzly bears, humpback whales and bald eagles.

Only Congress can amend the law itself, but the administration can amend the regulations that are used to implement the law, and the recent Trump amendments will seriously undermine the effectiveness of the law and, in turn, put many species at risk.

The changes to the Endangered Species Act regulations include: no automatic prohibitions on the harming or killing, import or export of threatened species listed in the future. They reduce the ability to designate critical habitat necessary for the recovery of listed species. The amendments will decrease science-based decision-making while increasing political and economic influence over Endangered Species Act listings, and will make recovery of listed species more difficult. The new rule will also make it more difficult to prepare for the anticipated threats that climate change will pose to America’s wildlife.

For over 20 years, opponents of the Endangered Species Act have sought to weaken it, largely because of the restrictions it places on land use. Yet a key part of the law’s success lies in its flexibility, including voluntary agreements with landowners to conserve and recover species onto their lands. These positive collaborations address both species and landowner needs and allow for flexibility in the law’s implementation.

In Maine, 26 inland fish and wildlife species are listed as endangered and 25 are listed as threatened under Maine’s Endangered Species Act, some of which are also listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Mainers should reach out to Chellie Pingree, Jared Golden, Susan Collins and Angus King, and tell them you strongly oppose these efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act. These species need to be protected for generations to come and to preserve the biodiversity of the planet.

Heather Keast

South Portland

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