Tuesday Reads: Trump Destroys Everything In His Path

Good Morning!!

Yesterday the Trump administration announced two shocking new policies: destructive rules changes to both legal immigration and the Endangered Species Act. Rachel Maddow addressed these two stories last night.

Dakinikat addressed the immigration issue exhaustively in her post yesterday, so I’ll focus on the new endangered species issue; but here’s one important piece on immigration from a historian:

The Washington Post: The Danger of Vilifying Poor Immigrants, by Hidetaka Hirota

Supporters of the president’s immigration policies welcome this change because they think it targets undocumented immigrants, or “illegal aliens,” who they believe have no right to stay in the United States. Many who subscribe to this view are themselves descended from European immigrants. And in making their argument against undocumented immigrants, they emphasize that their European ancestors came legally and respected the law — in contrast to today’s immigrants. But they have gotten the history wrong, especially if their ancestors arrived in the United States during the 19th century.

This view of the past is shaped by two misconceptions: that Europeans who were admitted in the 19th century were “legal” and that unauthorized entry is a new problem caused by contemporary immigration, especially from Latin America. This misguided history has contributed to the vilification of today’s Latinx immigrants — resulting in such extreme enforcement policies as expedited removal, family separation and indefinite detention.

In reality, European immigrants in the 19th century were probably not as legal as their descendants think they were.

Female Alabama beach mouse

Hirota explains that in the 19th century, cities and states tried to keep poor immigrants out and deport those who were here, but “the scale of immigration was simply too large for local and state officials to strictly enforce the pauper exclusion provisions of the immigration law.” For example:

Between 1846 and 1855, about 1.5 million Irish men and women fled famine-stricken Ireland, migrating to the United States. This rapid migration of very impoverished immigrants overwhelmed the operation of state-level immigration control, allowing people to enter the United States without proper inspection and bonds.

There have always been nativists like Trump who tried to keep immigrants out of the U.S., but desperate people kept coming anyway–in massive numbers. I’d like to see Trump prove that his grandfather, grandmother, mother, first and third wives came here legally.

Trump’s attack on endangered species

National Geographic, May 6, 2019: One million species at risk of extinction, UN report warns.

THE BONDS THAT hold nature together may be at risk of unraveling from deforestation, overfishing, development, and other human activities, a landmark United Nations report warns. Thanks to human pressures, one million species may be pushed to extinction in the next few years, with serious consequences for human beings as well as the rest of life on Earth.

“The evidence is crystal clear: Nature is in trouble. Therefore we are in trouble,” said Sandra Díaz, one of the co-chairs of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. A 40-page “Summary for Policy Makers” of the forthcoming full report (expected to exceed 1,500 pages) was released May 6 in Paris.

Based on a review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources and compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries, the global report is the first comprehensive look in 15 years at the state of the planet’s biodiversity. This report includes, for the first time, indigenous and local knowledge as well as scientific studies. The authors say they found overwhelming evidence that human activities are behind nature’s decline. They ranked the major drivers of species decline as land conversion, including deforestation; overfishing; bush meat hunting and poaching; climate change; pollution; and invasive alien species.

Mountain yellow legged frog, endangered in California

The tremendous variety of living species—at least 8.7 million, but possibly many more—that make up our “life-supporting safety net” provide our food, clean water, air, energy, and more, said Díaz, an ecologist at the National University of Cordoba in Argentina, in an interview. “Not only is our safety net shrinking, it’s becoming more threadbare and holes are appearing.”

Read more at the link. Also at National Geographic, see a slideshow of different endangered species in each of the 50 states.

Vox: The Endangered Species Act is incredibly popular and effective. Trump is weakening it anyway.

On Monday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced they were pushing through changes to the Endangered Species Act that will, in effect, weaken protections for species, and possibly give industry more leeway to develop areas where threatened animals live. A draft proposal of these rule changes was announced last summer. And now the rules go into effect in 30 days after they are officially published in the federal register (which the New York Times expects will happen this week).

The Trump administration’s alterations don’t change the letter of the ESA, which was passed in 1973 during the Nixon administration. But they do change how the federal government will enforce it. Here are two of the biggest changes. (Read the full new finalized rules here.)

Roseate Tern, endangered in Connecticut

Currently, species that are listed as “threatened” are defined as “any species which is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.” (Threatened is a designation that’s less severe than “endangered.”) The new rules constrain what is meant by “foreseeable future” and give significant discretion in interpreting what that means.

“The Services will describe the foreseeable future on a case-by-case basis,” the new rule states. Discretion is not a problem per se, but as the Washington Post explained last year, this could mean that in determining protections for plants and animals, regulators could ignore the far-flung effects of climate change that may occur several decades from now. Polar bears are threatened now, but they’ll be in even more peril in the future, when there’s less and less sea ice. There’s now more leeway for the government to determine if disappearing ice 40 years from now contributes to the threat Arctic animals face today.

The second big change is more of a giveaway to industry.

Until now, the agencies that enforce the ESA have had to base their decisions of whether to protect a species solely on scientific data, “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination.”

North Atlantic right whale, endangered in Georgia

The new rule removes that phrase. “The Act does not prohibit the [government] from compiling economic information or presenting that information to the public,” the rule argues. It does clarify that it’s allowed to do so “as long as such information does not influence the listing determination.” (But that’s confusing: Why strike the phrase from the guidelines in that case?)

That change, conservation groups fear, opens the door to business interests coming into discussions of whether a species should be protected. The new rule also gives the agencies more leeway to determine if an area that’s unoccupied by a species (but where it could also conceivably live) should be protected.

Read the rest at Vox.

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board: Editorial: Trump guts the Endangered Species Act. Polar bears and bald eagles, take notice.

The Trump administration announced reckless and potentially devastating new rules Monday that will weaken the Endangered Species Act, which currently bestows a mantle of protection over 1,663 species of animals and plants. Of those, 1,275 are considered endangered and close to extinction. Another 388 are listed as threatened — the polar bear is one — and at risk of becoming endangered.

Gopher tortoise, endangered in Louisiana

In the 46 years since it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon, the Endangered Species Act has protected imperiled wildlife and brought many species back from the brink of extinction. The law is credited with saving such species as the bald eagle (which recovered sufficiently to be delisted), as well as the California condor and the grizzly bear, both of which are still considered endangered. So are the right whale, the San Joaquin kit fox, and the rusty patched bumblebee….

These irresponsible and short-sighted changes will lead to further extinctions, damage the ecosystem and set back the nation’s efforts to protect wildlife — all as a gift to industry, which finds the law costly and burdensome. The new rules will no doubt clear the way for building, mining and oil and gas drilling in sensitive areas.

The new rules come in the wake of a report from the United Nations earlier this year that more than 1 million plants and animals around the world face extinction, some within decades, owing to human development, climate change and other threats….

It’s unconscionable — and dangerous — to be removing protections at a time when scientists warn that a million species could become extinct. The new rules should be legally challenged and overturned. They undermine a progressive and far-sighted, environmentally conscious law that has worked well for nearly half a century.

Associated Press, via MSN: States vow suit over endangered species rollback.

California and Massachusetts say they’ll go to court to fight the Trump administration’s overhaul of the Endangered Species Act.

Red knot, endangered in New Jersey

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (hahv-YEHR’ beh-SEH’-rah) said Monday that they planned to sue. It came hours after the administration announced broad changes to the way the government would enforce endangered species protections.

Both Democratic state prosecutors pointed to a United Nations report earlier this year warning that more than 1 million species globally are in danger of extinction.

Becerra told reporters that “this is not the time to go low, go slow or go backward.”

Several conservation groups also have promised court fights. The administration says the changes will reduce regulatory burdens while still protecting struggling species.

I can only hope these lawsuits are successful, but if we want to save ourselves and our environment we are going to have to get rid of this evil, destructive administration.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?