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Environment at risk under current administrationm

Dear EarthTalk: Now Trump is going to allow the importing of elephant “trophies” after all! Where do things stand overall now in the fight to protect endangered species, especially as wildlife now also face threats from climate change?

Mark Harrison

Sumter, S.C.

 

In what some see as another capitulation to the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) undid an earlier ban on importing elephant parts from Africa, now allowing hunters to get permits on “a case-by-case basis.”

News like this makes the whole wildlife situation seem grim — and it is. But many scientists and activists are working hard to try to secure protections for threatened species and wildlife habitat despite assaults by the pro-development Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress.

In mid-2016, candidate Trump’s talk of reneging on the Paris climate accord didn’t bode well for wildlife facing increasing threats due to global warming. After all, many of the 340 species added to the nation’s endangered species list during President Obama’s watch got there due to climate-related threats. 

Last fall the White House denied petitions to add 25 threatened wildlife species, including the Pacific walrus, Florida Keys mole skink and eastern boreal toad, to the nation’s endangered species list. Officials from USFWS cited “uncertainty” over the future effects of climate change as a rationale. 

And the story only gets worse. This past January, USFWS initiated proceedings to take the Canadian lynx off the threatened list altogether and downgrade a number of other species from endangered to threatened.

The non-profit Center for Biological Diversity has led the charge in filing several concurrent lawsuits against these moves by the Trump administration. Recently, the group filed suit in federal court to overturn the White House decision to deny threatened protection for the Pacific walrus. 

Wildlife lovers everywhere can keep their fingers crossed that upcoming mid-term elections will at least be a step in the right direction — as long as Democrats can gain seats in the House and Senate.

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