TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Proposed changes by the Trump Administration could have an effect on what animals are listed as endangered and whether lands are set aside as protected habitats for them.
The impact in Pima County, in the short term, will likely be minimal because the county passed and enforces the Multi Species Conservation Plan, known also as the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, in 1997.
Pima County’s Office of Sustainability released this statement regarding the changes.
“The changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) announced today do not affect Pima County’s Multi Species Conservation Plan (MSCP). New rule changes, such as these addressing the listing of new species and critical habitat going forward, will not impact projects developed under the County’s jurisdiction as long as we continue to abide by the commitments and requirements described in the While this is not likely to be the last regulatory change to the ESA, the MSCP and Section 10 Permit provide regulatory certainty to Pima County despite changes to the ESA. That is one of the enduring benefits of the MSCP.”
Under the changes, the EPA, for the first time, would be able to determine the cost of listing or de-listing a species.
It’s felt that cost estimate could be used to determine the feasibility of species, which is why it was kept out of the act in the first place. There’s also concern it could be used to replace sound scientific reasoning with economic decisions.
“They would essentially prevent the federal government from looking at the impact of some new development or some industry on some of the species that have been listed ,” said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “And it would also prevent some species from being listed.”
And as a veteran of the ESA wars in Pima County in the 1990′s, he questions the timing of the decision.
“We’re in the midst of a global mass extinction crisis,” Serraglio said. A recent United Nations report said as many as a million species worldwide may be in danger of extinction.
The Reid Park Zoo, which houses several endangered species, is especially concerned how the changes may affect policy moving forward.
“Our work is almost overwhelming because there are so many animals which are critically endangered,” said Nancy Kluge, the President of the Tucson Zoological Society.
The alligator, which is on display at the zoo, is an example of the success of the ESA.
Alligators have been moved from in “danger of extinction” to being “safe” according to Kluge.
Two grizzly bears, Ronan and Findley, are also part of the zoo and were once on the endangered list.
“We know that some of the species we have here like the American alligator and the wonderful grizzly bears wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for the endangered species act,” Kluge said.
The African Elephants at the Zoo are not considered endangered, but are a threatened species.
The goal is to prevent them from becoming endangered, although they don’t fall under the act.
But the ESA prompts conservation efforts which affect all species elsewhere, like the elephant.
Nandi, who celebrates her fifth birthday at the zoo on Sunday is part of those conservation efforts.
“That’s why they’re there,” said Kluge. “They’re ambassadors for their species.”
The state of California and several environmental groups say they will mount legal challenges to the ESA changes.