Original Publication Date: 5 September 2019
In almost three years, the Trump Administration has done its best to rollback every environmental regulation that was written into law during the Obama era; also those that are to the benefit of the environment while holding Big Oil and coal industries accountable for their destructive practices.
How many rollbacks has there been?
New York Times counts 84.
Rollbacks which have weakened regulations against harmful emissions, such as methane and hydrofluorocarbons, strengthening allowances for drilling and fracking in some of the last few wild lands left in the country, such as Alaska, and significantly decreasing and diverting budgets to state and federal wildlife governing authorities such as California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CADFW) are some well-known examples of the environmental atrocities Trump’s Administration has committed.
Yet, in light of the recently passed National Wildlife Day, it’s important to recap some of the key legislative disasters coming out of this Presidency.
Two major legislative change which were met with immediate resistance – and justifiably so – were the weakening of protections for salmon and smelt in California in order to give farmers greater access to irrigated water (yes, the same farmers that have been suffering tremendously under Trump’s haphazard trade wars, the reason he is now throwing regulations out the window: in an attempt to amend some of the damage he has done), and the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act.
As it is well known, salmon are central to many ecosystems throughout the Pacific coast and serve as a key connection between fresh- and saltwater habitats. Juveniles swim out to sea and live the majority of their lives in the Pacific Ocean. Once they reach maturity, they begin their journey back to the spawning grounds from which they were hatched, putting on one of the world’s greatest spectacles: the beloved Salmon Run. Upon returning to freshwater, the salmon shed their gray, drab appearance for the iconic pinkish color and sharply angled mandible. Grizzly bears and many other apex predators and mesocarnivores of North America journey from far and wide to feast upon the fish – this often being their first meal since emerging from hibernation.
The Trump Administration aims to disrupt this system, not only by weakening protections, but also by diverting the paths of many irrigated waters, completely changing several ecosystems and placing in peril thousands of flora and fauna which are already subject to California’s droughts and wildfires.
Changes to the Endangered Species Act give would give priority once again to the consideration of economic impacts in decisions on whether or not a species should be protected. This is an extreme 180˚ in terms of ethics, bringing about the discussion once again of ecosystem services, or instrumental value, vs. intrinsic value. Why should profit be a factor in the consideration of whether a not a species native to this country should live or not?
Another alteration to the Act would increase difficulties in gaining protection for Threatened species, a process that is already wrought with challenges, as the federal government almost always has a backlog of petitions for species being considered for protections under the Act. The Administration is defending these proposals as “streamlining” the legal processes under the Act.
Additional regulations which have been completely withdrawn or severely amended include hunting laws, allowing for use of lead ammunition, baits – which are widely frowned upon and perceived by many as unethical – increasing catch limits for fishing regulations and many more.
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