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Fri Dec 28, 2018, 01:31 PM

45 Years After Nixon Signed It Into Law, the War on the Endangered Species Act Continues

Forty-five years ago, on December 28th, 1973, President Richard Nixon, a Republican, signed a piece of monumental environmental legislation, the Endangered Species Act, into law. At the time, Nixon issued a statement in support of protecting wildlife that most sitting Republicans wouldn’t dare make today: “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed,” it said. “It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.”

The act now protects more than 1,500 species and remains one of the most powerful environmental laws on the books. Since its passage, several species, including the brown pelican, Louisiana black bear, and, of course, the bald eagle have recovered.

But somewhere along the way, what was hailed as a historic bipartisan achievement became deeply political. In the 45 years since its signing, conservatives have gone to extraordinary lengths to weaken the Endangered Species Act for the sake of economic growth—and the Trump administration has carried on the task of environmental deregulation with renewed vigor.

But before President Donald Trump was anywhere near the Oval, in the 1970s, the United States’ plants, animals, and the environment at large were in dire straits. Take, for example, the plight of the bald eagle, a bird native to North America that has long been considered a symbol of the United States’ strength, power, and freedom. By the early 1970s, an alarming number of bald eagles were dying, threatening the species’ existence. Between the pre-industrial era and the 1960s, the bald eagle’s population dropped from an estimated 100,000 to less than 1,000 due to habitat loss, illegal killing by ranchers, and exposure to DDT, the gnarly pesticide responsible for a slew of harmful environmental effects, including weakening birds’ eggshells. In short, America’s national symbol was on a fast-track to extinction.

https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2018/12/45-years-after-nixon-signed-it-into-law-the-war-on-the-endangered-species-act-continues/

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