Otters and Turtles and Grizzlies, Oh My!

Kaitlin D'Souza, Staff Writer

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The number of endangered species in Washington state is growing, adding animals like our famed whales, birds and bears. Due to human interference, adorable animals such as the sea otter and green sea turtle are facing possible extinction within the year.

Efforts by large federally funded organizations, like The National Parks Service (NPS), help endangered species through the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a law which makes it illegal to harm, harass or hunt protected species. There are over 20, 000 animals in America and abroad that are protected by this act. Animals like the bald eagle and the grizzly are just two of the multitude of species that have been saved from extinction by the ESA. This act is sometimes the difference between the success of these animals and their extinction.

However, the ESA also makes it harder for big industry to drill, mine, and deforest in reserved areas and animal habitats throughout the country. Abiding by ESA restrictions is expensive for these businesses and battling animal activists over endangered species is costly. Due to this, on July 19th the current president, Donald Trump, introduced a proposal hoping to rollback this act in order to open up animal habitats for big industry like fishing, mining, and drilling to benefit America’s economy.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Trump is planning to do this by amending the phrasing of the act, and removing blanket rules that protects threatened species the same way it protects endangered species. This proposal follows many more made by Trump to rollback environmental regulations in order to strengthen America’s economy. The New York Times based on Harvard Law School Trackers reports almost 46 environmental rules overturned and 30 more in progress.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates there to be around 2,000 extinctions every year and this year, the sea otter, an animal well loved in Washington, could disappear from our waterways. According to the Defenders of Wildlife, oil spills cause hypothermia in sea otters and pollution degrades the streams and riverbeds that they call home. While big businesses see the Endangered Species Act as red tape to cut through, experts say many animals need it to prevent their imminent extinction.

Sophomore Trevor Marquis says, “The government should better fund the NPS.” Better federal funding would allow the NPS to further their education efforts in order to better inform the American population about endangered species. Junior Danielle Johnson thinks the government should find and fund “alternative energy solution” and “enforce heavy fines on people who pollute.” With the government supporting the protection of the environment, it is a lot easier to facilitate clean and healthy habitats for species that are free from pollution.

Issaquah High students can do a lot more to help endangered species and spread awareness regarding government actions surrounding their protection. Even small efforts help. Senior Samuel Lam says students can help by “recycling, and not wasting.” Even doing simple things like visiting national parks and using a reusable water bottle can help threatened and endangered species. Freshman Julia Wood suggests “petitioning and talking about” endangered species. If students can drive conversation about endangered species, students can also further efforts to protect them.

Commenting on the proposed amendments ended on September 24th, and can be viewed on the federal government regulations website here. The Humane Society reports that there have been over 800 thousand comments opposing Trump’s proposal regarding the ESA.