Current work in wildlife, rivers, public lands, and climate
Rare Glacier National Park Insect Gets Endangered Species Act Listing, But Trump Regulations Weaken Protections
In one of the first decisions since the new Endangered Species Act regulations instituted by the Trump administration went into effect, the Service completely sidesteps addressing the climate crisis. In the listing rule for the stonefly, the Service declines to protect critical habitat, stating that the threats (glacier melt and fragmentation) cannot be addressed through management actions required by the ESA. A new study released today found that federal agencies are not doing enough to protect species from climate change.
“The Trump Administration has rendered the Endangered Species Act practically useless against the climate crisis,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “The new regulations allow the Service to completely ignore the root causes of this species’ imperilment.”
The regulations, which were finalized Aug. 12, 2019, remove language that prohibits consideration of economic impacts when listing a species, make broad exemptions to the regulations protecting critical habitat, and lessen protections for “threatened” species, among other changes that weaken the Act.
Glacier National Park is a symbolic ground zero for the climate crisis. Since 1900, air temperatures in Glacier National Park have risen at almost double the global average increase and are expected to increase even more rapidly in the future. As a result, projections indicate that all glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone as early as 2030. As the glaciers disappear, streams they feed will heat up and in some cases dry out. The stonefly likely cannot survive these changes, as it depends on cold water from glacial runoff.
The namesakes of other national parks are under threat from climate change as well. Joshua Tree National Park may lose up to 90 percent of Joshua tree habitat in the next century. In response to a 2015 petition from Guardians, the Service denied protections to the Joshua tree, ignoring numerous climate models that predict drastic shrinkage of the trees’ range over the next 100 years.
Since the ESA’s enactment, 99 percent of listed species have avoided extinction, and hundreds more have been set on a path to recovery. The law is especially important as a defense against the current extinction crisis; species are disappearing at a rate much higher than the natural rate of extinction due to human activities, resulting in what some scientists term a “biological annihilation.” According to a recent United Nations report, over a million species are currently at risk of extinction. Researchers estimate that, if not for ESA protections, 291 species would have gone extinct since the law’s passage in 1973. However, these recent decisions by the Service indicate an unwillingness to face the climate crisis and the resulting extinction crisis and take the bold actions necessary to preserve biodiversity.