“As wolf populations continue to increase, interactions between farmers, their livestock, rural residents, and wolves continue to escalate without a remedy in sight,” Holte told lawmakers during a Senate hearing Wednesday on the law. He said farms saw more than $200,000 in damage from attacks and stress on livestock.
His temporary freeze on pending regulations prevented first-ever protections for a species of bumblebee from taking effect this month.
(Read more about how Trump’s presidency could affect wildlife.)
The 1973 law allows the federal government to protect certain species by designating them as threatened or endangered, preserving habitat and outlawing hunts. It currently protects more than 1,600 plant and animal species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the law’s implementation, acknowledges that the number of species so far deemed robust enough to be taken off the protected list (close to 40) is “relatively modest.” But it has been nearly 100 percent successful at preventing those species from going extinct altogether, and it has allowed others, such as the gray wolf, bald eagle, and American crocodile, to thrive.
Wednesday’s Senate hearing was focused on “modernizing” the current act by making it more challenging to list a new species, for example, or expediting the removal of species that are already listed.
Some observers are wary of this language. “The professed desire to ‘modernize’ the ESA has almost always been code to push forward an agenda to weaken or gut it,” Defenders of Wildlife chief Jamie Rappaport Clark told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works during the hearing.
The environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council has already sued the Trump administration over its suspension of protections for the rusty patched bumblebee.
“We don’t think this is just a freeze,” says Rebecca Riley, senior attorney for NRDC. “It’s an opportunity for the administration to reconsider, and perhaps revoke, the rule entirely.”
Hundreds of bills, introduced mostly by Republicans, have sought to delist species or otherwise weaken the ESA, and most of them have been unsuccessful. “It’s a very popular law,” Riley says, with a “long track record” of balancing industry and conservation concerns.
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