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Report: Politics Trump Science for Ten Endangered Species

The Trump administration has recommended changes to the greater sage-grouse land management plan that could open up more of its habitat to oil and gas development. (Jeannie Stafford/US Forest Service)
The Trump administration has recommended changes to the greater sage-grouse land management plan that could open up more of its habitat to oil and gas development. (Jeannie Stafford/US Forest Service)
January 4, 2018

DENVER – Pressure from special interests is undermining policy decisions about wildlife conservation, according to a report from the Endangered Species Coalition.

And the report says that influence is getting stronger as industry officials have taken leadership positions in the Trump administration.

Hailey Hawkins, the coalition’s Southern Rockies field representative, says the Endangered Species Act mandates that the best available science be tapped to help preserve wildlife and plant species.

"And unfortunately, as we see in our report, that's not what's always happening,” she states. “Our decision makers are caving to politically powerful special interests, to the detriment of endangered species, conservation and the American people."

The report analyzes conservation decisions on 10 imperiled fish, plant and wildlife species over the past decade, spanning the Obama and Bush administrations.

It says science was either ignored or suppressed as a result of special interest lobbying.

Four species in the report, including the wolverine and greater sage-grouse in Colorado, were denied protections despite large scale population declines.

Hawkins notes the oil and gas industry, along with snowmobile companies, played a big role in keeping the wolverine off the Endangered Species List.

"Wolverines depend on alpine habitat for their survival, and loss of habitat due to climate change is their main threat,” Hawkins points out. “These habitats are melting."

A decade-long habitat conservation effort across 11 states led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to not list the iconic greater sage-grouse, despite a 90 percent population loss from historic levels.

In November, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended changes to the land management plan that could open up large portions of the birds' habitat to oil and gas development.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO