The Trump Administration has been consistent on its attacks against our public lands, waters, and wildlife.
Below is an extensive laundry list of Trump administration rollbacks, rule-changes and budget cuts that jeopardize our country’s endangered species, public lands, waters, climate change and air quality … while favoring some of America’s dirtiest industries.
Trump exploits self-created COVID ‘economic emergency’ to shirk critical environmental reviews
Turning theeconomic turmoil caused by his mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic into “opportunity” for mining, pipeline and construction interests, President Trump this week signed an executive order instructing agencies to waive long-standing environmental reviews for new mines, pipelines, highways and other projects. The “economic emergency” declaration allows the President to waive Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act requirements mandating public input and detailed analysis of environmental harm for new projects. The move will almost certainly be challenged in court.
Trump seeks stark changes to nation’s centerpiece environmental law
In January 2020, the Trump administration proposed extensive revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act, a landmark measure affecting nearly every major federal construction project in the nation. Arguably Trump’s most significant deregulatory action to date, the proposed revisions to this cornerstone environmental law would narrow the range of projects required to conduct environmental reviews or produce environmental impact statements, while imposing tight new deadlines on the completion of those studies. If help up in court, the changes could threaten species and lead to even higher greenhouse gas emissions.
Trump 2021 budget slashes funds for national parks, species protection and the EPA
The Trump administration’s proposed budget plan for 2021, if enacted, would endanger the protection, maintenance, and operation of more than 400 national parks across the country. The plan seeks to cut 17% of the National Park Service budget and 26% of the EPA’s budget, an open act of contempt for an agency responsible for enforcing and enacting critical environmental laws like the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. Trump’s budget proposal also guts the Land and Water Conservation Fund, established to help protect national parks from residential and commercial development, and cuts funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by nearly $86 million—including a decrease for programs dedicated to recovering and protecting species listed on the Endangered Species Act.
Trump Caters to the Demands of the Elite, Ignores the Needs of Regular Sportsmen and Sportswomen
Trump bends over backwards to cater to the demands of members of his elite club. Regular, everyday hunters and anglers rely on local clean waters, clean air, healthy public lands and wildlife populations to enjoy the outdoors and feed their families. Trump spent his time and effort to ensure that elephant hunters could bring their trophies back to America, but completely ignored the Chronic Wasting Disease that is destroying our local deer herds. Trump flip-flopped and suddenly “protected” Alaskan wilderness from a potentially devastating mine proposal only after he heard complaints from members of his elite club complaining it would harm their vacation spot. But Trump opened the door to mining in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness because, apparently, his elite club members don’t summer there. Trump doesn’t make decisions based on their merits, or whether it helps our public lands, or whether it benefits working Americans. Trump makes decisions based only on the interests of his elite club members.
Trump Cuts Support in Half for State and Private Forest Management
Trump’s first proposed budget slashed the State and Private Forestry program in half compared to Obama/Biden’s previous budget. And Trump’s most “generous” request for the program was still $124 million less than what the Obama/Biden administration had requested. This critical program of the U.S. Forest Service directly supports management of forest lands owned by the state and local governments in addition to privately owned forest lands. In Michigan that’s more than 70% of its forest acreage, more than 80% of Minnesota’s, and nearly 90% of forest acreage in Wisconsin. Any hunter will tell you that a well-managed forest is a healthy forest, and a healthy forest means deer, turkey, and grouse. And Trump cut funding that helped states and private landowners keep their forests stay healthy.
Endangered Species / Wildlife
Trump Administration guts the Endangered Species Act
The Trump administration removed significant portions of the Endangered Species Act in 2019, drastically curbing its ability to protect threatened species. The ESA originally dates back to 1966. The changes include several components:
- Compels the government to consider economic factors before categorizing species as threatened or endangered, making it far more difficult for species to be classified.
- Species that were categorized as “threatened” would no longer receive the same protections as “endangered” species.
- The process to define risks to species would now be conducted on a case-by-case basis.
Each of these provisions makes it more difficult to protect at-risk species and could push more species towards extinction.
Under Trump, a Decrease of $158 million in Funding for State Fish and Wildlife Management
Since the start of the Trump administration, the federal funding source (the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund) that the states rely on to manage fish and wildlife and provide hunter education has decreased by 14%. During the Obama/Biden administration federal funding sent to the states was nearly doubled, providing states an additional $348 million for use in 2016 compared to 2008. During the Trump administration those funds shrunk, sending states $158 million fewer dollars at the start of 2020 compared to 2017.
- Michigan Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Funding Change
- Trump/Pence: Decreased by $5.4 million
- Obama/Biden: Increased $10.2 million
- Wisconsin Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Funding Change
- Trump/Pence: Decreased by $5.0 million
- Obama/Biden: Increased $9.9 million
- Minnesota Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Funding Change
- Trump/Pence: Decreased by $4.4 million
- Obama/Biden: Increased $9.2 million
- Illinois Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Funding Change
- Trump/Pence: Decreased by $3.4 million
- Obama/Biden: Increased $6.7 million
- Ohio Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Funding Change
- Trump/Pence: Decreased by $3.5 million
- Obama/Biden: Increased $6.5 million
- Florida Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Funding Change
- Trump/Pence: Decreased by $2.1 million
- Obama/Biden: Increased $5.5 million
Trump Destroys Waterfowl with his Migratory Bird Treaty Act “M-Opinion”
Through purchase of hunting licenses, hunting equipment, and duck stamps, waterfowl hunters have long funded scientific management of duck and geese populations. The Trump Administration, on the other hand, gave corporations a blank check to destroy waterfowl by the thousands with its Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) “M-Opinion”. The MBTA has for decades provided strong legal protection against the wanton destruction – intentional or not – of ducks and geese by oil spills, toxic oil ponds, and other deadly threats to migrating birds. Trump had his lawyers – without seeking input from waterfowl hunters or any other members of the public – remove that protection by signing an “M-Opinion” that said corporate polluters weren’t responsible if they “unintentionally” destroyed migratory birds.
After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – which killed an estimated one million birds – the Obama/Biden administration successfully prosecuted the polluter under the MBTA and other laws. Obama/Biden collected millions of dollars in fines from the polluter and sent more than $8 million dollars in conservation funding to northern states to help them rebuild migratory birds populations. Under Trump and his M-Opinion, corporate polluters like those responsible for Deepwater Horizon can “accidentally” kill hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese … without consequences under the MBTA.
Repealed Habitat Mitigation Rules Designed to Protect Fish and Wildlife
On November 3, 2015, the Obama/Biden White House ordered five federal agencies to streamline regulations for offsetting (“mitigating”) harm to fish and wildlife habitat and the environment caused by development. It established the following policy: “It shall be the policy of the Department of the Defense, the Interior, and Agriculture; the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and all bureaus or agencies within them (agencies); to avoid and then minimize harmful effects to land, water, wildlife and other ecological resources (natural resources) caused by land- or water-disturbing activities, and to ensure that any remaining harmful effects are effectively addressed, consistent with existing mission and legal authorities. Agencies shall adopt a clear and consistent approach for avoidance and minimization of, and compensatory mitigation for, the impacts of their activities and the projects they approve.”
The memorandum establishes for the first time a “net benefit goal” for natural resource management. At a minimum, the memo calls for no net loss of land, water, wildlife, and other ecological resources from federal actions or permitting. Unfortunately, the current Trump Administration repealed those habitat mitigation requirements, to the detriment of America’s fish and wildlife. In fact, then Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called habitat mitigation requirements that protect our nation’s fish and wildlife “un-American.”
Trump administration seeks removal of sage grouse habitat protections
In December 2017, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management sharply departed from Obama / Biden-era efforts to preserve the habitat of the unique sage grouse. BLM’s proposal removed habitat protections on nearly nine million acres of land—making it easier for oil & gas companies to conduct drilling. The plan was challenged in court and struck down by a U.S. District Court in Montana on May 26, 2020. The court also invalidated 440 different oil and gas leases that covered around 336,000 acres of land, which the Bureau of Land Management had sold as a part of the new plan.
Trump Fails to Protect America’s Deer Herds from Fast Spreading, Deadly Disease
Trump has ignored the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a highly contagious, deadly disease that impacts America’s deer, elk, and moose. The origin of the disease remains unclear but it has spread quickly across many states, with Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois whitetails being particularly hard hit. Trump has done nothing to stop or even slow the spread of the disease. The Obama/Biden Administration established a range of programs to tackle the threat including a CWD Program Standards Working Group but Trump has failed to support even the most basic disease monitoring programs to help impacted states. Trump hasn’t even spent program funds that Congress gave him to fight the disease. Trump’s very own wildlife advisory group openly shared its frustration and expressed “significant disappointment” in Trump’s lack of response to CWD.
Bears Ears / Grand Staircase-Escalante: Trump initiates largest rollback of federal land protections in nation’s history
In December 2017, President Trump reduced the size of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante by over two million acres, the largest rollback of federal land protection in the history of the nation. Bears Ears national monument was reduced by 85%, while Grand Staircase-Escalante was reduced to nearly half of its previous size. In February 2020, following on the decision, the Trump administration finalized plans to allow drilling, mining, and grazing in those areas.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: Trump lifts copper-nickel mining ban within the Superior National Forest
In December 2017, the Trump administration canceled a mineral withdrawal study of over 234,000 acres within the 3 million-acre Superior National Forest in Minnesota, paving the way for a regionally untested copper-nickel mining project in the pristine, water-rich area. Following this decision, the Trump administration renewed two expired mineral leases to Twin Metals Minnesota (a subsidiary of the Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta) in May 2019, allowing Twin Metals to plow forward with a controversial copper-nickel mining project directly adjacent to the 1.1 million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Trump EPA withdraws opposition to Pebble Mine project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay
The long-controversial Pebble Mine project is a large proposed copper and gold mine in an ecologically sensitive area of Alaska. Its initiation was blocked in 2014 by Obama / Biden’s EPA, which determined that it would cause a complete loss of the bay’s fish habitat—one of the world’s most valuable wild salmon fisheries. EPA’s Watershed Assessment had found that mine waste would have a catastrophic impact on the ecosystem and region as a whole. The EPA announced a reversal in its opposition to the mine in July 2019, disregarding the agency’s standard Clean Water Act assessment and cutting scientists out of the decision-making process.
Trump pushes Ambler mining road in remote region over caribou concerns
In August 2019, Trump’s Interior Department released a draft environmental assessment regarding proposed construction of the 200-mile long Ambler mining road. The road would cut through Alaska’s Brooks Range foothills, directly bisecting the Gates of the Arctic National Preserve and disrupting the migration of one of the largest remaining Arctic caribou herds. The road is meant to improve the viability of copper mining in a remote natural area. Once built, it could drive the Arctic caribou herd away from Alaska Native villagers that depend on it for food. The Western Arctic herd accounts for nearly 12% of all remaining Arctic caribou.
Trump seeks to remove road restrictions on Tongass, Chugach National Forests
In October 2019, Trump proposed lifting road construction protections for over nine million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, an amount totaling nearly 40% of the remaining intact landscape managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The Tongass is one of the world’s last temperate rainforests, and contributes to a tourist economy that surrounding areas depend upon. The 20-year-old Roadless Area Conservation Rule that Trump hopes to sidestep prevents construction of roads and other infrastructure in designated areas. Roadless areas protect clean water sources in many major U.S. watersheds, providing undisturbed areas for hunting, fishing, and recreation that safeguard a wide variety of native species habitats. Trump’s plan would also remove Roadless Rule protections for Alaska’s equally cherished Chugach National Forest.
Trump shelves Interior Dept. handbooks on minimizing negative environmental effects
In a December 2017 Christmas gift to the energy industry, Trump’s Interior Secretary quietly discarded a host of specific guidelines on how the agency can do its job: upholding conservation policies on public lands. Calling the guidelines “inconsistent” with America’s Energy First policies, the administration rescinded four separate climate change and conservation policies instructing department employees how to minimize the environmental impact of activities conducted on federal land and in federal waters. The action undoes years of work by officials to record and compile best practices in the area.
Oceans and Waterways
Trump dirties, diminishes Obama / Biden water protection rule
In April 2020, as America focused on the coronavirus pandemic, Trump’s EPA finalized regulations that drastically roll back the types of water bodies protected by the Clean Water Act. The new rule removes existing protections for rain-fed streams, wetlands, ponds, and even some lakes—bodies of water that act as nurseries for fish and feed into millions of people’s drinking supplies. The rule ignores the fact that 53% of rivers and streams, 71% of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds, and 80% of bays and estuaries that have been tested have failed to meet water quality standards.
Trump dilutes Obama / Biden “National Ocean Policy”
In June 2018, the Trump administration gutted an Obama / Biden-era policy designed to protect the Great Lakes and U.S. ocean water—a rule created in response to the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The new executive order emphasizes use of the waters to promote economic growth and encourages more oil & gas drilling. It deletes a preamble to the previous policy that emphasizes “how vulnerable our marine environments are” and removes references to “social justice,” “biological diversity,” and “conservation.”
Trump overrides state water quality safeguards to make pipeline development easier
In April 2019, President Trump signed two executive orders that make it easier for companies to undertake oil and gas pipeline projects by making it harder for states to assess water quality impacts in cases where a proposed project crosses a body of water. Seen as a significant victory for pipeline developers, the orders change a rule in the Clean Water Act, trimming the authority of states to review (and potentially delay) projects occurring within their own borders.
Trump removes Stream Protection Rule
In February 2017, only one month after assuming office, President Trump signed legislation that repealed the longstanding Stream Protection Rule—a rule designed to protect waterways located near coal mining operations that originated with the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Rivers and streams located near coal mining operations are often polluted by dangerous heavy metals; removal of the rule jeopardizes the protection of waterways and public health.
Trump halts Obama / Biden rule curbing toxic wastewater from coal plants
In April of 2017, shortly after assuming power, the Trump administration halted an Obama / Biden rule that requiring power plants to demonstrate use of up-to-date technology that removes heavy metals from wastewater discharges, potentially endangering wildlife and entire communities whose water supply is located near a coal plant. The Trump rule ignores the fact that power plants represent the largest industrial source of toxic wastewater pollution in the country, and more than one third of those plants is located within five miles of a community’s drinking water intake.
Climate Change / Air Quality
Trump encourages states to ignore air pollution in national parks
The Regional Haze Rule provides guidance to states and polluters about how to reduce harmful haze and air pollution affecting national parks. In August 2019, the Trump administration released new guidance advising states and polluters about how to avoid reducing the very pollution that harms national parks. Trump’s guidance essentially allows pollution sources to continue operating without effective clean air controls, and advises that states can now decide themselves what pollution sources to address—or ignore. Haze pollution presents health risks to park visitors, obscures views and affects nearly 90% of the country’s national parks.
Trump administration withdraws from Paris Climate Agreement
In November 2019, the Trump administration formally notified the United Nations that it would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement on climate change—removing the world’s largest cumulative emitter of CO2 from an agreement meant to cut global emissions and help the world’s less wealthy countries cope with the worst effects of climate change. Virtually every nation around the globe has agreed to be part of the Agreement.
Trump administration guts Obama / Biden-era “Clean Power Plan”
In June 2019, the Trump administration replaced the Obama / Biden-era Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy rule—a rule designed to facilitate the retirement of aging coal-fired power plants. The new rule largely provides states with the authority to regulate emission reductions, undercutting one of the previous administration’s central global warming reduction initiatives.
Trump rolls back Obama / Biden-era automobile fuel efficiency standards
In March 2020, Trump’s EPA finalized a new rule allowing vehicles to emit nearly one billion tons more carbon dioxide over their lifetimes than under the previous rule. The new regulations allow for significantly greater greenhouse gas emissions, and could cost American drivers as much as $13 to $22 billion dollars in additional gasoline expenditures.
Trump pushes forward with Keystone XL pipeline plan
Despite the Obama / Biden administration’s denial of the Keystone XL pipeline’s key federal permit, reviving the controversial project emerged as one of the Trump administration’s first actions. Keystone XL’s plans to move a particularly energy-intensive and dirty variety of crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands to Nebraska continues to raise objections. Environmentalists and indigenous tribes agree that it would do irreversible damage to critical water sources and wildlife habitat, while carrying a particularly large carbon footprint that would only exacerbate climate change.