The Endangered Species Act is a set of laws that has helped save many different plant and animal species from going extinct, as well as preserved wildlife and natural ecosystems throughout the country.
Over the course of summer 2018 the current administration proposed a set of bills to change the Endangered Species Act and subsequently limit its protections. The proposed changes are detailed in a technical 100-page long document.
Some of the most controversial changes proposed include loosening the regulations protecting threatened species and considering the economic consequences of protecting a species before listing them as endangered.
Joseph Cook, a biology professor at the University of New Mexico and the curator of mammals at the Museum of Southwestern Biology, gave further insight on the current political climate for endangered species.
Cook said some projections have concluded that almost half of the mammalian species will be lost within the next 100 years. Cook also said recent publications have suggested that only 4 percent of all mammals are wild, and 80 percent of the earth’s wild mammal populations have already been lost.
“We’ve got some real serious challenges ahead of us due to the loss of biodiversity, and the Endangered Species Act has been the most effective federal law with regards to slowing down the causes of species loss,” Cook said.
He said there are several different reasons why we are losing so many species, but one of the biggest causes of extinction is habitat loss. He said the increase of human population and the development on wild land has had a tremendous impact.
Cook also said one of the main things the new proposal is trying to accomplish is to change the definition of a critical habitat and make it more difficult for an environment to be listed as such. Critical habitat status is a vital tool used to recover the populations of endangered species.
Keith Flynn, a junior majoring in finance, said he believes the proposed changes to the Act would make things worse.
“They are trading long-term benefits for wildlife and humanity for short-term business gains that really would have been there regardless of whether these acts are in place or not,” Flynn said.
Connor Houdek, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry, said, “I’m definitely not in favor of hurting or intentionally harming endangered or threatened species. However, I’d probably need to read more about the bill in question to support or oppose its ramification(s).”
Cook said it is key for people to inform themselves on the changes occurring to species and their natural habitats. He added that it is important for people to pay attention to who they elect and to vote for politicians that support protecting wildlife.
“We really need people to inform themselves and to vote, and to hold politicians’ feet to the fire,” Cook said.
Isaiah Garcia is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Zay_Garcia23.