Upon learning about the Trump administration’s weakening of our country’s most effective conservation law, I lamented for a moment, then got to work writing this commentary. My editor at KQED Radio accepted it right away, I recorded it yesterday, and it aired today.
May we each use our voice and the power we have to speak up, to vote, and to act on behalf of what’s right. This is my small contribution to that end.
▶️ “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed,” said the Republican president prior to resigning under the threat of impeachment.
No, that’s not a prediction of the near future; it’s actually a memory of the not-so-distant past when Richard Nixon announced to the nation that he was signing the Endangered Species Act.
Since then, this law has played a significant role in the recovery of hundreds of endangered and threatened animals, plants, and habitats.
Before this landmark legislation, due to poisons and pesticides, only 400 breeding pairs of bald eagles were known to live in the lower 48 states. Today, it’s 30 times that.
At the time, hunters and ranchers had successfully dwindled the grey wolf population to just a few hundred; today, albeit still threatened, they number more than 5,000.
Before their protection under the Endangered Species Act, only 200 American crocodiles remained. Today there are more than 2,000 individuals.
But now their days—and those of hundreds of other species—are numbered.
This week, the Trump administration announced it will take steps to roll back our country’s most effective conservation law that could pave the way for development, drilling, and mining in regions where protected species live.
Itself an endangered species, the Republican Party once laid claim to a strong tradition of environmental stewardship, but that tradition has gone the way of the Dodo. The party of Trump has ceded its commitment to country, compassion, and conservation in favor of power, politics, and populism. Instrumental in the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the creation of national parks and forests, the Grand Old Party’s devotion to compassionate conservatism is all but extinct.
While one administration’s policies can be overturned by the one that follows, some consequences are simply irreversible.
Extinction is permanent.
When deciding who should represent our American values in our various branches of government, may our national bird serve as both a reminder of what we accomplished in the past and a warning of what we could lose in the future.
With a Perspective, I’m Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.