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As a retired person, and finally with enough time to travel and enjoy the splendor or our National Parks along with its wildlife, the attempt by our current administration to weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA) through regulatory changes is more troublesome than ever!
The ESA was founded decades ago for the purpose of providing protection to species that were on the brink of disappearing into oblivion. With solid decision making at its core, based on scientific data, the ESA has enjoyed an overwhelming success rate of approximately 99% (of the 1600 species listed), restoring Bald Eagles, Gray Whales, California Condors, Grizzly Bears, Gray Wolves along with countless other species, from teetering on the verge of extinction to healthy populations.
Established during the Nixon Administration, the ESA was a policy that rose above politics, since at that time the environment was largely thought of as a non-partisan issue. “Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions,” according to President Nixon in 1970. “It has become a common cause of all the people of this country.”
Fast forward 40+ years, and in today’s political climate with the current Administration’s proposed regulatory changes, it becomes fairly easy to see that “restoring nature” no longer appears to be the primary goal that it once was. In a nutshell, the proposed changes make it more difficult to protect species, to add new species to the list, easier to remove species currently on the list, to reduce protections for imperiled species, to make it more difficult to protect critical habitat, and to bias listing decisions based on unreliable economic analyses rather than on scientific data. Incorrectly skewed at all angles, it is a heart breaking to watch our country’s priorities shift to devalue wildlife on every level.
Not only have politics drastically changed, but the global environment is facing multiple challenges previously never imagined: habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade, deforestation, ocean acidification, climate change, disease, hunting, overfishing and bycatch, uncontrolled development, not to mention oceans that are suffocating in plastic.
Many scientists believe the Earth is entering a sixth mass extinction phase (defined as periods when Earth loses more than 75% of its species in a short interval), which means that it is the wrong time to be limiting the powers of the ESA to protect threatened plants and animals. In fact it should be quite the opposite – we should be doing all we can to preserve the mix of wildlife on the planet, rather than making it more challenging for imperiled species to survive. Quite simply, Mother Nature needs more help than ever, if the rhythm of our natural world is to survive as we know it. Norm Dicks, a former U.S. Representative, once said the “Endangered Species Act” is the strongest and most effective tool we have to repair the environmental harm that is causing a species to decline.”
Whether or not the ESA will continue to exist is more a game of Russian Roulette at this point. But for those of us who grew up appreciating and respecting wildlife, I hope you’ll join me in taking a stand for the ESA, by opposing all of the new regulatory changes that will in any way weaken the ESA. Circling back to President Nixon, “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed.”
Now that I am retired and can travel across our great state, or tour our majestic National Parks, I for one prefer a view of towering pines with Bald Eagles perched atop the highest limb, over a view of towering smoke stacks in landscapes devoid of the wildlife that makes them grand.
It is up to our generation, those of us who grew up appreciating and respecting wildlife, to make the magic of the natural world a priority and to oppose all regulatory changes that will tie the hands of the ESA, making it next to impossible to prevent species from disappearing forever. The balance of life on earth as we currently know it needs an unencumbered ESA, and we do too!
To learn more about the value of protecting the endangered species act and how you can help check out the Endangered Species Coalition website.
Connie Boardman is a retired Professor of Biology from Cerritos Community College where she served for 24 years before becoming the Dean of the Science, Engineering and Mathematics Division at the College. Ms. Boardman is a former president of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust and has been involved with that organization for over 22 years. Ms. Boardman was elected to the Huntington Beach City Council, served as Mayor of the City in 2003 and 2013.
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