More than 1,600 species are protected by the federal government's Endangered Species Act. Now, thanks to new changes from the Secretary of Interior, the Trump White House is literally putting a price tag on which species to protect and which could see their fate's permanently sealed in order to protect the bottom line of corporate interests.
The Trump Administration has been trying to gut the act for months. The latest changes have been blasted as disastrous by a number of governors, environmental groups and Democrats in Congress.
After all, as the Associated Press notes, this is the same act that helped to save the Bald Eagle, literally the creature chosen to represent America as a living symbol.
"As we have seen time and time again, no environmental protection - no matter how effective or popular - is safe from this administration," said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).
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If you care about saving the environment, November 2018 can't come fast enough.
Republicans in Congress are moving fast to reverse and alter portions of the Endangered Species Act, which has helped bring several species back from the brink of extinction for nearly 45 years.
So why would anyone attack it?
Lobbyists for the oil and gas industries, the timber industry, and other private interests are pushing Republicans in Congress to roll back parts of the act before the November midterms because they know if Democrats take back control of the House, they are unlikely to vote to scale back these very basic, popular protections.
"It's all about the midterms," said Andrew Rosenberg of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "[Republicans] have what might be a unique opportunity to get things through that could never get political support in a more balanced Congress."
Protecting endangered species didn't used to be a political debate.
"Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed," said one liberal icon about the importance of the Endangered Species Act.
Just kidding. Those are the words of Republican Richard Nixon, who signed the act into law when he was president.
Nixon wasn't an exception. Basic environmental protections used to be a bipartisan issue and polls continue to show that support for the act remains incredibly high, oftentimes 80% or more.
Ultimately, the only real institutional support for rolling back these protections is from limited business interests who would see short-term profits at what critics say would be substantial costs to endangered species and the environment.
Needless to say, people aren't happy about it.
The Endangered Species Act has prevented 99% of the species under its care from going extinct, including the Whoopi… https://t.co/Eza0NdSW7Z— Audubon Society (@Audubon Society)1532037913.0
The Endangered Species Act must not be weakened! This isn’t Hollywood — once a species is extinct it’s gone forever… https://t.co/Hp2K6CH4a5— Rep. Vern Buchanan (@Rep. Vern Buchanan)1532028077.0
Without the Endangered Species Act, there would be no humpback whales, no hummingbirds, and no howls.… https://t.co/XRtZ75xDV6— Wolf Conservation Center (@Wolf Conservation Center)1532051584.0
Gutting the Endangered Species Act is about greed, cronyism, self-interest, and short-sightedness. It's symbolic of… https://t.co/jaaUVJ2lSb— Dan Rather (@Dan Rather)1532368950.0
Now, trump wants to make changes to the Endangered Species Act—why is every choice they make so villainous—from all… https://t.co/TM2zgD7A9g— Chelsea Handler (@Chelsea Handler)1532094148.0
The clock is ticking. Here's how you can help.
The lobbyists pushing Republicans to roll back these protections know that they only have a short window of time.
But in this case, it may all come down to pressuring one person: John McCain. McCain is normally a voice of reason in the Republican Party on environmental issues.
Contacting McCain's office and urging him to vote against any rollbacks might be the last defense in stopping changes from reaching President Donald Trump's desk. And that's something McCain has reportedly shown a past willingness to do.
Protecting our most vulnerable species doesn't have to be a partisan issue. It's about standing up for our own best interests, which is something just about everyone should be able to agree on.