OW! Endangered Species, You're Hurting Big Oil's Fists With Your Faces!
In yet another big wet kiss on the lips for land developers, oil and gas interests, ranchers, and anybody who just loves blowing diesel exhaust in the face of bicyclists and Prius drivers, the Trump administration has released an exciting new plan to gut the Endangered Species Act, fulfilling the dreams of Republicans who've been trying to stomp on little woodland creatures ever since it was passed in 1973. Get ready for a huge boom in jobs for the oppressed American worker, corporate profits, and extinctions! Or at least the latter two.
The proposed rule changes released jointly by the Interior and Commerce Departments are a smorgasbord of gifts to polluters and developers. Among other changes, the new rules would eliminate an existing prohibition on considering the commercial effects of designating any species as endangered or threatened; until now, such designations were supposed to be based solely on scientific data. The proposal insists the Trump administration is only following the TRUE intent of Congress in 1973, because the statute said the Interior secretary should make decisions "solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data." So fuck you, stupid ugly obscure species that don't even look attractive on Sierra Club fundraising appeals. We have dams to build!
Another proposed change would make it a lot easier to just go ahead with potentially habitat-wrecking projects without bothersome, job-killing interference from Earth Shoe-wearing hippie scientists: Federal agencies would no longer have to consult with scientists or wildlife agencies before granting permits for drilling or logging. That oughta wipe the smirk off the beaks of those smug spotted owls.
Yet another change would give less habitat protection to "threatened" species -- those less far-gone than "endangered" species, which are on the verge of being wiped out altogether. New York University environmental law prof Richard Stewart explained to the New York Times the reasoning behind the existing rules, which give both threatened and endangered plants and animals the same protections:
"[If] you wait until the species' numbers are actually small enough that it's going to become extinct, it may be difficult or too late" to save it. The threatened list, he said, is designed "to anticipate a species is sort of going downhill sufficiently in advance, and protect it."
Downgrading those protections makes perfect sense to the folks who want to eliminate coverage for preventative healthcare, but insist it's fine, since people who really need help can always go to the ER. We'll just log and drill and mine until those critters are almost extinct, and then if they're still declining, well then, can't do anything now because just look at all the jobs that would be lost.
The proposal even includes a neat linguistic trick that would allow the government to ignore projections of the impact of climate change by defining the phrase "likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future" more strictly, so officials could choose not to foresee changes like sea level rise or shrinking sea ice. Polar bears, your reign of white, furry, Coca-Cola selling terror is over.
Oh, sure, large majorities of Americans -- including self-described conservatives -- consistently say they like the Endangered Species Act and don't want to see it weakened, but as with so many other issues, the well-funded interests who are inconvenienced by environmental protections are very upset that a bunch of dumb weeds and worms and fish nobody can even eat have prevented them from getting richer. And for chrissake, the '70s are over, so let's just put success stories like the recovery of bald eagles, bison, and grizzly bears in the bin with the leisure suits, shall we? No dumb little tree frog ever made anyone a dollar, so fuck 'em all.
The rules, once published in the Federal Register, will be open for the usual 60-day public comment period. To comment online, go to regulations.gov and search for the regulation number, FWS–HQ–ES–2018–0006 (but not today -- the regulation hasn't been published just yet). Yes, we're asking you to do stuff to save the remaining nice things we still have, and there are just so many other fires we're trying to fight at the same time, but it's all part of the same fight. Stay engaged. Stay angry. Read some Molly Ivins and maybe even some Ed Abby. But please, don't hug any bison or wolves. We need you to come back and keep standing up to these bastards.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.