Endangered Species Act Changes Will Affect Land Protection

The recent rollback of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) should have everyone concerned. It certainly has our attention due to our work in protecting wildlife habitat.

Since the law passed with bipartisan support in 1973, the Endangered Species Act has been extremely effective: Ninety-nine percent of plant and animal species protected by the ESA have avoided extinction.

New rules that weaken the ESA will allow a decrease in the amount of habitat set aside for wildlife and it will remove tools that help predict future harm to species as a result of climate change.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, habitat loss is likely the greatest threat to the variety of life on this planet today. A pillar of the original ESA was to protect animals and plants from going extinct by protecting the critical habitat and ecosystems that they depend upon. Now, Congress has decided to amend the law.

While regulations at the federal, state or local level have been essential in protecting natural resources, this recent change powerfully reminds us that these protections are all subject to repeal, amendment or non-enforcement.

We often get asked why we pursue conservation easements on significant natural properties when township ordinances don’t allow development anyway. This is the very reason! Heritage Conservancy strives to protect land forever, not until a group garners sufficient votes to change the regulations. A property that is only protected by regulation is susceptible to this negative impact virtually any time there is pressure to do so…and the pressure to do so will only increase as time goes by.

In order to make a difference, try to stay aware of what is going on. It isn’t always so public when a change is made. Contact your elected officials and tell them that extinction is not an option!