The Endangered Species Coalition has released a report titled Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump Administration, which outlines the possible impact of the current administration’s anti-wildlife policy stances. The report highlighted the 10 species that are in the most danger because of proposed new regulations as well as the specific changes that put these animals at risk.
The California Condor has a 10-foot wingspan, making it one of the largest land birds in North America. These birds can reach altitudes of 15,000 feet and speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They are a critically endangered species, with fewer than 500 left, after flying in the skies of the western U.S. and Mexico for thousands of years.
Most California Condors die in the wild from lead poisoning, and when the population shrank to less than 30 back in 1982, survivors were captured and put in breeding facilities. By 2017, more than 290 were flying free in the wild, with another 173 in the breeding program.
However, on his first day in office, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke rolled back legislation from the Obama administration that banned the use of lead ammunition in critical condor habitat. This could be a catastrophic action that might lead to the end of the California Condor.
Leatherback and Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Both of these sea turtles can swim for thousands of miles, and they help maintain balance in their ocean habitat while providing essential nutrients to the beaches where they nest.
Both types are protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but they are also vulnerable to human activity. Each year, thousands are snared in fishing nets and die, and climate change is hitting their homes hard.
The Trump Administration’s proposed new regulations give leeway when it comes to how a habitat is or isn’t protected. If those regulations do kick in, the Fish and Wildlife Service can ignore protections in that habitat altogether, and the leatherbacks and loggerheads could lose their fragile beach nesting grounds entirely.
Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild back in 1980. But after a successful experimental breeding program, they were reintroduced in North Carolina in 1987. The red wolf is on the edge of extinction again, with fewer than 30 left in the wild.
The only place in the world that you can find red wolves is in a five-county area in North Carolina. Under proposed regulations from the Trump Administration, the delisting of the red wolf could be justified, even though scientists are still investigating their genetics. This would be a fatal blow to the species.
This ancient salamander is slimy and mud-brown or speckled gray, like a river rock. It has flappy skinfolds on the entire length of its body, lidless eyes that keep it from seeing much of anything and chubby toes for clinging to the river bottom. It also has a superb sense of smell.
Hellbenders live solitary lives under a single boulder, and they never relocate. They do not pose any threat to humans and are a vital indicator of water quality, because they thrive in clean streams but deteriorate when their habitat does.
Because the Trump Administration’s proposed regulations include economic analysis in their listing decisions, it could mean the end for the hellbender. The economics of mining, logging and fossil fuel extraction could cloud a listing for this species, and those businesses could also damage the hellbender’s habitat beyond repair.
The world’s tallest animal with 6-foot-long legs and a 6-foot-long neck, the giraffe is a highly social animal that roams in groups called towers. Their patterned coats are unique, just like fingerprints, and the animal is emblematic of Africa’s savanna.
Hunting and habitat encroachment have reduced the population by 30 percent in the last three decades, and the animal appears to have gone extinct in seven countries. The two biggest threats are a growing trade in giraffe parts and trophy hunting; however, this animal is not protected internationally or by the Endangered Species Act.
To make matters worse, Zinke created an International Wildlife Conservation Council full of NRA members that is promoting and expanding international trophy hunting. President Trump has not responded to a request to add the giraffe to the Endangered Species list. At this point, fewer than 100,000 are left.
Related to the mink, the Humboldt marten is the size of a kitten. It is a stealthy hunter that lives deep in the forests of Northern California and Southern Oregon. This animal is so secretive, there is only a handful of photos in existence, and they were taken by remote-sensing cameras.
At one time, the species was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1996. But only four separated populations remain, and humans have put them at risk by trapping them for their fur and logging in their rainforest habitat.
Fewer than 400 are left, but it is not on the endangered species list and receives no federal protection. The Trump Administration finally proposed to list the Humboldt marten under the ESA but only to classify it as threatened. Under the new proposed regulations, a species classified as threatened no longer receives the same protections as those classified as endangered. There is also a special rule that exempts logging operations, which means the Humboldt marten population could vanish entirely.
Rusty Patched Bumble Bee
This species was the first bee in the continental U.S. to be listed under the ESA. That was a challenge all its own, because the paperwork was delayed on President Trump’s first day in office when his administration put a hold on the protections just before the bee was supposed to be listed.
It finally made the list in 2017, but the Trump Administration’s proposed regulations prioritize the protection of habitat currently occupied by the species. This is a problem, because the rusty patched bumble bee has vanished from nearly 90 percent of their historic range due to disease, habitat degradation and use of pesticides. The bee needs that historic habitat to recover.
If there are no safeguards for the habitat these bees once called home, it could have deadly consequences.
West Indian Manatee
This fully-aquatic, plant-eating mammal has some interesting relatives. At one end there is the elephant, and at the other, there is the hyrax. Manatees weigh around a thousand pounds and can live up to 60 years old. They have no natural enemies … except for humans.
Manatees get hacked by propellers, smashed in watercraft collisions, drowned in canal locks and tortured and killed when they eat fish hooks, litter and lines.
The biggest threat to the manatee is habitat loss thanks to red tides, algae blooms and pollution. But this didn’t stop the Trump Administration from downlisting the West Indian Manatee from endangered to threatened. The new rules also ignore impacts to habitat unless those impacts occur across the entire habitat and affect the whole species. With the manatees having such a scattered population, their habitat won’t get necessary protections.
San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat
This little rodent has specialized fur-lined face pouches that allow them to cache seeds in their cheeks until their face almost bursts. The San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat is about four inches long, and its tail is longer than its body.
Their survival depends on natural cycles of wet and dry, and they never have to take a drink. They get all of their moisture from food, which comes from plants that mature at the perfect time and produce seeds at the right rate.
Green vegetation stimulates their reproduction, but it has to be in moderation. There is a fragile wet/dry balance that human activities have messed up with mining, dam building and residential and commercial development.
The new regulations from the Trump Administration would require less consultation between agencies, which means they can ignore the impact of what they do to their surroundings. Something as simple as a new road can mess up the rat’s wet and dry life, leading to extinction.
Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
This bird loves where the water meets the woods, and they often avoid detection even when they are out hunting caterpillars and other prey. One researcher once watched a Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo for an entire hour waiting for him to budge, but he didn’t.
In addition to hiding in plain sight, this bird is disappearing altogether. There are only about 2,000 left, and the species was listed under the ESA in 2014. But the bird needs habitat protections. It is now being reviewed for delisting, and the new regulations from the Trump Administration could kill the recovery plan. This could end up being a fast-track to extinction.