Obama’s treatment of endangered species: too soft or just right?

Posted: Dec 15, 2019

Some have criticized President Obama’s snail’s pace when it comes to listing species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  So far, he is even behind Bush, who only listed 11 species in his two terms.  Also, Obama has not reversed President Bush’s decision to delist the gray wolf.  However, is this seemingly soft treatment of endangered species really a bad thing?

Contrary to what this slow start suggests, the President seems to respect the Endangered Species Act.  While he has not listed many species, he has reversed a policy from the previous administration which allowed federal agencies to go forward with projects that would affect endangered species without consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service.  This policy also specifically dismissed any connection between climate change and endangered species on the grounds that climate change occurs through global processes and cannot be reasonably predicted.  By reversing this policy, Obama has again made it possible for the government and citizens to use the ESA as a tool in regulating carbon.  Additionally, endangered species and compliance with the ESA has been an important issue to the President regarding the Gulf oil spill. 

Overall, Obama seems to be interested in increasing the overall strength of the Act, not necessarily the number of species that are listed.  At least in the first years of his presidency, this might be the most important thing.  By stressing energy, climate change, and ecosystem restoration in his environmental policy, the President is focusing on the big picture for environmental protection.  By increasing the strength of the Act, he has increased the protection to every species currently listed.  These broader goals are a prudent start for a president who wants to change and restore our nation’s attitude towards environmental protection.  After all, listing new species means nothing if the Act as a whole has been degraded into uselessness.  

Blog post by: Aubrey Coffey-Urban
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