Since the Endangered Species Act was enacted under President Richard Nixon in 1973, six species, including bald eagles, gray wolves and Florida manatees, have been saved from possible extinction.
Now, the ESA is potentially facing its own extinction under President Donald Trump’s administration.
A two-hour Senate hearing was held Wednesday to “modernize” the act, which was widely criticized by Republican legislators during the Environment and Public Works Committee meeting.
Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, who led the hearing, said last month that his proposal to change the ESA would be “eliminating a lot of the red tape and bureaucratic burdens that have been impacting our ability to create jobs," according to an Energy and Environment News report cited by The Washington Post.
Barrasso said Wednesday that the ESA “is not working today” and that complaints from “states, counties, wildlife managers” and more show the act hinders housing development, cattle grazing and land management plans.
Regulations that hold up business, particularly energy endeavors, are on Trump’s chopping block. Last week, his Interior Department postponed listing the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered as part of a wider freeze on his predecessor Barack Obama’s rules for protecting the environment and public health.
The bumble bee has lost about 90 percent of its population the past two decades, and Trump’s move prompted a lawsuit from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“The science is clear — this species is headed toward extinction, and soon. There is no legitimate reason to delay federal protections,” the group’s senior attorney Rebecca Riley said in a statement.
Republican Bob Bishop, who is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said Wednesday that the ESA “has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. It’s been used to control the land.”
Since 1973, more than 1,600 species have been listed on the ESA as threatened or endangered. Less than 50, or about 3 percent, have been removed.
“As a doctor, if I admit 100 patients to the hospital and only three recover enough to be discharged, I would deserve to lose my medical license,” Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma said.
The lawmakers did not speak to the stability of species that have been listed and recovered orwhat development efforts into their habitats could do to those species whose numbers are deteriorating.