FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Endangering the Ark

Gray Wolf. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

This week the Trump administration announced new rules that effectively gut the Endangered Species Act. This move is a disastrous blow to a natural heritage that is increasingly under threat, an abdication of our moral responsibility to future generations – and another giveaway to big corporations and ideologues who will ultimately be on the wrong side of history.

The rules would make it harder for the Department of Interior to grant imperiled species the protections needed to prevent extinction, while facilitating removal of protections for species that are currently listed. By allowing economic considerations to weigh heavily in the balance for decisions regarding whether to protect species or not — a purview previously limited to science — Interior is elevating the profit motives of corporations above what should be our sacrosanct obligations as stewards of creation.

The rules also weaken requirements to consider the impacts of climate change, which is threatening not just a host of plant and animal species, but also humans and, indeed, the entire planet. In a separate, complementary move, last spring the U.S. Geologic Survey announced it would limit scientists’ evaluation of “foreseeable” future climate impacts to 2040, only 20 years hence. Given that the impacts of climate warming unfold over many decades, that time horizon is far too short to give a useful picture of foreseeable conditions in time to avoid disaster.

In the case of Yellowstone’s grizzly bears,the severity and suddenness of impacts from climate change have been shocking, including the collapse of our high-elevation whitebark pine forests as mountain pine beetles invaded habitats previously protected by frigid winter temperatures.  Climate change is also partly to blame for the tanking of Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake, although predation by illegally introduced nonnative Lake trout has taken a huge toll.

We also stand to lose another critical Yellowstone grizzly bear food, army cutworm moths. The moths forage on the nectar of alpine tundra flowers which will be driven off the top of the mountains, along with alpine environments, by warming temperatures. Serviceberries, buffaloberries and chokecherries will also likely be hammered.

The government’s failure to aggressively curb greenhouse gases will ensure more devastating surprises for grizzlies and our planet far beyond 2040. Making matters worse, Trump’s new ESA rules makes it easier for industries to exploit the public lands that we all hold dear. Right now, we still have options for restoring our natural heritage, including enough habitat in the Northern Rockies to reconnect the long-isolated grizzly populations, but these opportunities could soon be lost.

Hard-won gains also stand to be lost. Even if last year’s restoration of ESA protections for Yellowstone grizzlies is upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, grizzly bears will likely be prey to another politically-motivated move by the Trump Administration to again strip protections and allow trophy hunting, abetted by a newly-weakened ESA.

The Great Bear is hardly alone. According to a recent United Nations report on the state of global biodiversity, 1 million species worldwide are at risk of extinction, many within a few decades. Extinctions are happening at a rate at least 1,000 times greater than could be considered normal. In just the last 50 years we have lost 60% of all the wild animals that once roamed our Earth — to a burgeoning human population, climate change and greed.

A precautionary approach is vital if we hope to leave future generations with anything approximating a healthy environment. Indeed, the precautionary principle was built into the bones of the ESA, which codifies a national commitment to our natural heritage. The law has been enormously successful. Ninety percent of species that have been granted protections have not gone extinct.

Once again, the Trump administration is throwing caution to winds to promote short term private profits at the expense of long-term public benefit. In so doing, it is giving a green light to the destruction of the Ark.

The grizzly is an ecological canary in a coal mine — a measure of the health of our ecosystems. Its fate is connected to our own. We allow the destruction of endangered species at the peril of our souls and society, not to mention future generations.

More articles by:

Louisa Willcox is a longtime grizzly bear activist and founder of Grizzly Times. She lives in Montana.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 20, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Unipolar Governance of the Multipolar World
Rob Urie
Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!
Miguel Gutierrez
El Desmadre: The Colonial Roots of Anti-Mexican Violence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance
Andrew Levine
Why Democrats Really Should Not All Get Along But Sometimes Must Anyway
Louis Proyect
A Rebellion for the Wild West
T.J. Coles
A Taste of Their Own Medicine: the Politicians Who Robbed Iranians and Libyans Fear the Same for Brexit Britain
H. Bruce Franklin
How We Launched Our Forever War in the Middle East
Lee Hall
Mayor Obedience Training, From the Pet Products Industry
Louis Yako
Working in America: Paychecks for Silence
Michael D. Yates
Radical Education
Jonathan Cook
Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
Valerie Reynoso
The Rising Monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer
John Steppling
American Psychopathy
Ralph Nader
25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare for the 2020 Elections
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality
Vincent Emanuele
Small Town Values
John Feffer
The Threat of Bolton Has Retreated, But Not the Threat of War
David Rosen
Evangelicals, Abstinence, Abortion and the Mainstreaming of Sex
Judy Rohrer
“Make ‘America’ White Again”: White Resentment Under the Obama & Trump Presidencies
John W. Whitehead
The Police State’s Language of Force
Kathleen Wallace
Noblesse the Sleaze
Farzana Versey
Why Should Kashmiris be Indian?
Nyla Ali Khan
Why Are Modi and His Cohort Paranoid About Diversity?
Shawn Fremstad
The Official U.S. Poverty Rate is Based on a Hopelessly Out-of-Date Metric
Mel Gurtov
No War for Saudi Oil!
Robert Koehler
‘I’m Afraid You Have Humans’
David Swanson
Every Peace Group and Activist Should Join Strike DC for the Earth’s Climate
Scott Owen
In Defense of Non-violent Actions in Revolutionary Times
Jesse Jackson
Can America Break Its Gun Addiction?
Priti Gulati Cox
Sidewalk Museum of Congress: Who Says Kansas is Flat?
Mohamad Shaaf
The Current Political Crisis: Its Roots in Concentrated Capital with the Resulting Concentrated Political Power
Max Moran
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection
Arshad Khan
Unhappy India
Nick Pemberton
Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 24 Other Favorite Albums
Nicky Reid
The Bigotry of ‘Hate Speech’ and Facebook Fascism
Paul Armentano
To Make Vaping Safer, Legalize Cannabis
Jill Richardson
Punching Through Bad Headlines
Jessicah Pierre
What the Felicity Huffman Scandal Says About America
John Kendall Hawkins
Draining the Swamp, From the Beginning of Time
Julian Rose
Four Funerals and a Wedding: A Brief History of the War on Humanity
Victor Grossman
Film, Music and Elections in Germany
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ahmet Altan’s “I Will Never See the World Again”
David Yearsley
Jazz is Activism
Elliot Sperber
Captains of Industry 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail