This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. It was co-authored with Melissa Kelly, the staff director and attorney at the Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources (CLEANR).
The bald eagle, sea otter, timber wolf — these iconic animals and more have been saved by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). But the Trump administration doesn't seem to care about our country's natural heritage. It's using questionable arguments about the popular law in an effort to gut protections and convert our public lands into private assets.
The administration's destructive intent is apparent in the proposed revisions to the ESA by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries. These changes appear to be aimed at providing more opportunities for business interests to influence conservation decisions. Indeed, the administration has proposed to turn the law on its head by allowing consideration of economic impacts in listing decisions, restricting designation of unoccupied critical habitat, and eliminating default protections for threatened species.
The motivations are even clearer when we look at the administration's aggressive exploitation of public lands in favor of the oil and gas industry. The president's myopic fixation on achieving "energy dominance" is poised to undermine what former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell once referred to as an "unprecedented landscape-scale conservation effort" that demonstrated the ESA "is an effective and flexible tool and a critical catalyst for conservation."