“Let us not have those of the future decry our smallness of concept and lack of foresight.”
- Adolph Murie (Naturalist known as “Denali’s Wilderness Conscience”)
The Bald Eagle's recovery is an American success story. Some 50 years ago, the Bald Eagle, our national symbol, was in danger of extinction throughout most of its range. Hunting, habitat destruction and degradation, and the contamination of its food source by pesticides, decimated the eagle population. The Bald Eagle Protection Act, habitat protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act, and multiple conservation actions taken by the American public helped the nation’s symbol make a remarkable recovery — and other formerly imperiled species have recorded similar gains.
Now, reframed as “restrictive regulations”, decades of protections are unwinding with extraordinary speed. In the last three and a half years nearly 70 environmental rules and regulations have already been officially reversed, revoked or otherwise rolled back.
I struggled to only highlight these 4 examples. Others are available further below to more fully understand what all has been done in our name.
- Changed the interpretation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Companies are no longer accountable for bird deaths as long as birds were not the “intended target”.
BP, for instance, would no longer be accountable for the environmental disaster it caused with its negligent practices. - 2018
- Rollback of major offshore-drilling safety rules implemented after the BP Deep Water Horizon explosion. - 2019
- Changed policy dating back to 1985 to allow coastal replenishment projects to use sand dredged from protected ecosystems. -2019
- Reversal of restrictions on the import of hunting trophies from elephants, lions and the rarest antelope, bontebok . Multiple Endangered Species Act enhancement findings signed in 1995, 1997, 2014- 2016, were withdrawn. – 2018
On November 3, 2020, Americans will have the opportunity, with eyes wide open (or open but willingly blind), to say if we want more of this, more of this destruction by a thousand cuts, all pursued because hard-fought for protections just get in the way.
“We are the most dangerous species of life on the planet, and every other species, even the Earth itself, has cause to fear our power to exterminate. But we are also the only species which, when it chooses to do so, will go to great effort to save what it might destroy.”
– Wallace Stegner (American novelist)
Here are a few more of the 70 already completed reversals:
- Removal of the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List, thus allowing for its hunting. A federal judge later reinstated the protections, though the Administration has appealed the reversal in May 2019.
- Reversed restrictions on the sale of plastic water bottles in national parks designed to cut down on litter, despite a Park Service Report that the effort worked. - 2017
- Reversed a rule that barred using bait, such as grease-soaked doughnuts, to lure and kill grizzly bears on some public lands in Alaska. Also now again allowed: shooting hibernating black bears, taking wolf and coyotes (including pups) during denning season, or gunning down swimming caribou from motorboats. – June 2020
- Withdrawal of a proposed rule requiring groundwater protections for certain uranium mines. The administration’s Nuclear Fuel Working Group has proposed opening up 1,500 acres outside the Grand Canyon to nuclear production. - 2018
- Loosened a 1963 Clean Air Act rule designed to limit toxic emissions from major industrial polluters. - 2018
- Authorization of use of seismic air guns for gas and oil exploration in the Atlantic Ocean, from Delaware to Central Florida. The surveys using this method are part of a bid to expand offshore oil drilling. Seismic air guns fire intense blasts of compressed air into the seabed every 10 to 12 seconds, for weeks or months at a time. It can disturb or kill marine whales, sea turtles and disrupt fisheries. - 2018
- Revoked the Stream Protection Rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris into local streams. - 2017
- Overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges. - 2019
- Rolled back most of the requirements of an EPA rule aimed at improving safety at sites that use hazardous chemicals that was instituted after, in 2013, a chemical plant exploded in Texas. - 2017
- Rollback of a Department of Transportation rule that required braking system upgrades for “high hazard” trains hauling flammable liquids like oil and ethanol. - 2018
- Overturned a ban on the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands. - 2017
- Ended an Occupational Safety and Health Administrations (OSHA) program to reduce risks of workers developing the lung disease silicosis. - 2019