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Report: Politics, Suppression of Science Endanger Wildlife

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Eastern Pacific leatherback sea turtle populations on the West Coast have decreased by more than 97 percent in the last three generations. (Bernard Dupont/Wikimedia Commons)
Eastern Pacific leatherback sea turtle populations on the West Coast have decreased by more than 97 percent in the last three generations. (Bernard Dupont/Wikimedia Commons)
December 20, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – A new report highlights the ways politics are jeopardizing endangered animals and plants.

In "Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for Ten Endangered Species," the Endangered Species Coalition and its partners say scientific guidance is going by the wayside under the Trump administration.

Two Oregon species are among 10 featured in the report: the Pacific leatherback sea turtle and the greater sage-grouse.

Aaron Tam, Pacific Northwest organizer for the coalition, says science is critical for many species' survival, as more go extinct or face the effects of climate change.

"The Endangered Species Coalition and our member groups are concerned that the prevalence of special interests – industry representatives – under the Trump administration is intensifying the suppression of science,” says Tam, “and threatening the survival of our endangered species, as well as the quality of life for our future generations."

Tam says slashing science budgets for agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration make it harder to manage wildlife.

The report says President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Accord and EPA Chief Scott Pruitt's rollback of science based regulations also hurt endangered species.

Tam cites the Pacific leatherback sea turtle as a prime example of how rolling back rules can be harmful. In 2015, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife approved a rule to protect these turtles and other species from gillnet fishing.

"But the Trump administration unexpectedly withdrew this proposed rule in June of this year,” Tam says. “And the withdrawal reflects the fishing industry's powerful lobbyists, and the Trump administration's disregard for the recommendations of its own fishery advisers."

Eastern Pacific leatherback populations on the West Coast have dropped by more than 97 percent over the last three generations, according to NOAA. Tam says the greater sage-grouse in Oregon and across the West also is under threat from the administration's decision to weaken federal conservation plans for the bird.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR