August 21, 2019 Community news from the prairie to the lakes  
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  Opinion  
  Gutting Endangered Species Act is immoral, and dangerous
  BY C. A. RAY, Editor
 

President Trump’s capacity to outrage knows no limits. Sometimes you have to wonder if he makes policy decisions based on how many people he can make gnash their teeth. Take, for instance, his plan to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

Bald Eagles, which once numbered only about 400 breeding pairs, were protected under the Endangered Species Act until 2007, when the species became stable enough to be removed from the list. Now, the population exceeds 17,000 eagles. The Trump administration wants to change how that act is applied.

For the first time since the Endangered Species Act became law, the government will take into account the economic cost of protecting particular species. In other words, if saving an endangered species costs too much, for instance, if a planned hydroelectric dam will wipe out an obscure frog that produces no noticeable economic benefit for humans...goodbye frog!

The Endangered Species Act currently protects more than 1,600 species in the United States and its territories. Human’s relationship with many of these species is obscure and hard to measure. But we do know that insects, animals, birds, and plants provide us with hundreds of services, including air and water purification, nutrient cycling, dispersing of seeds, and pollination of food crops and other plants. Researchers estimate that the global cost, if we had to pay for these services would be more than $142 trillion annually. Not to mention 40 percent of all medicines are derived from plants. Whenever a plant becomes extinct, which happens to between 200 and 2000 plants every year, biologists forever lose knowledge that might have saved lives.

So, while we can attach a monetary value to many endangered species, we don’t know enough about the relationships between species to know what the extinction of one species would mean to another.

For instance, what if that frog we sacrificed for electricity, ate mosquitoes that carried a dangerously contagious, but rare, disease? If no frogs, there would be an increase in mosquitoes, and an increase in deaths caused by a once rare disease.

But more than that, we are the Earth’s caretakers and responsible for every living thing on this planet. To blithely save some species and condemn others to extinction simply because we cannot see an economic value in saving them...is immoral.

After all, what is the economic benefit of a Bald Eagle?

 

 

 
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