The Trump administration is making major changes to the Endangered Species Act, which could affect some plants and animals in Louisiana.
The act, passed in the 1970’s, protects endangered plants and animals. At that time, the “pelican state” almost lost its state bird. The brown pelican was on the brink of extinction. Then, officials went to Florida and brought back juvenile pelicans to reestablish them in Louisiana. In 2009 they were officially taken off the list of endangered species.
The new changes allow officials to take economic impacts into consideration when deciding what species to protect and how. It will also be harder to protect species from climate change, and easier to take them off of the endangered list, according to a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Gulf policy expert with the National Audubon Society, Brian Moore, says the new rules could mean fewer success stories like the brown pelican. “It’s entirely contrary to what the ESA is about,” says Moore. “What they’re saying is money is equal to the wellbeing of the species.”
Environmental advocacy groups issued statements warning of the possible impacts. The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says officials are still trying to understand what the changes will mean for Louisiana. There are 31 threatened and endangered species in the state, including the Whooping Crane and Dusky Gopher Frog.