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Cuts to conservation funding in President Trump's budget

Gray wolf.
Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS
Gray wolf.

The Trump administration’s detailed budget proposal leaves fewer resources for protecting endangered species. Under the proposed plan, the budget for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be trimmed to $1.3 billion for 2018.

Brett Hartl, Government Affairs Director at the Center for Biological Diversity, says that’s about an 8% funding cut for conservation. He says the Trump administration’s cuts to the domestic side of the budget, in favor of defense spending, aren’t a surprise.

“This administration has shown overwhelming hostility to most things environmental. And basically the main thing they’ve done over the first few months of the administration is to roll back environmental regulations that were designed to protect human health and the environment. So it certainly doesn’t bode well,” Hartl says.

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed 18 lawsuits against the Trump administration. A few deal directly with endangered species, like one to protect gray wolves and lynx from copper mining in Minnesota.

But Hartl says over the last six years, Congress has been leading the effort to roll back protections for endangered species.

“We’ve seen a lot of species-specific attacks where they say we want to end protection for a species even though it’s still endangered, even though it’s still potentially going to go extinct,” he says.

Hartl says under this new budget proposal, it could be slightly harder to get species added to the endangered species list, and it might make recovery harder for species that are already protected.

Some saw hope in the case of the rusty patched bumblebee. Earlier this year, the species became the first bumble bee listed under the Endangered Species Act.

“That species was in a unique position because it basically had crossed the finish line during the last days of the Obama administration,” says Hartl. “And the only thing left to do was to do final publication on the Federal Register to make it official. And they don’t really have a lot of legs to stand on to stop something like that.”

Hartl says it’s somewhat encouraging that the Trump administration is following the rule of law. He says that could be good news for the monarch butterfly. His group already has a legal agreement with the agency to consider the species as threatened.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not provide anyone for a taped interview for this story.

But in an email, an agency spokesperson says under the proposed budget plan, funding for listing new species under the Endangered Species Act is being reduced to fund conservation the administration considers a higher priority.

According to an agency press release, that includes protecting fish and wildlife habitat in National Refuge Areas for hunting and recreation.

Kara Holsopple is with the environment news program, the Allegheny Front.

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