Connecticut should join other states to block the Trump Administration’s recent weakening of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The State has done a pretty good job protecting species and critical habitats. For years Connecticut taxpayers have bankrolled the acquisition of natural lands. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection stands watch over a list of threatened species. A network of local land trusts is actively supplementing the state’s habitat protection programs. All these efforts benefit the species that live alongside us.

President Donald Trump’s newest Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, who was a lobbyist for the oil and gas industry, has rolled back ESA protections for species, making it easier for mining, gas, timber and other corporations to operate in ecologically sensitive areas.

The beneficiaries are the same crew of extractive industries that have been bankrolling and supporting the Trump administration from the outset. It’s the oil and gas industry, the mining industry, the logging industry, and the agribusiness industry — basically every industry that benefits from taking public resources, including public lands and public waters that species need to survive, and using them to maximize private gain. The Trump administration wants to boost profits for extractive industries even if it’s at the expense of the species that can sustain the hit the least.

The ecosystem is a finely tuned biological machine. If you keep removing pieces from the machine, it won’t run properly. And we don’t fully understand how this machine works. So driving species into extinction as we’ve been doing all around the globe, is a pretty stupid way to behave.

We’re like 6-year-olds tinkering with the parts of a Mercedes engine. If a species has a unique function in its ecosystem, its loss can prompt cascading effects through the food chain (a “trophic cascade”), impacting other species and the ecosystem itself.

The ESA has saved more than 200 species from extinction (99% of the species it has listed) in its 45-year history, including such iconic animals as Florida manatees, grizzly bears, American alligators, black-footed ferrets, and, of course, the bald eagle.

While it may seem unimportant if we lose one salamander or rat species, it matters because all species are connected through their interactions in a web of life. A balanced and biodiverse ecosystem is one in which each species plays an important role and relies on the services provided by other species to survive.

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s alterations to the ESA will lead to more tinkering with the biological machine, more species extinctions, and unpredictable ecological consequences.

Tom Crider is Vice-President of the Southbury Land Trust.

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