Sanibel veterinarian concerned about set changes to Endangered Species Act

Reporter: Nicole Gabe Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

There are growing concerns after the Trump administration announced it wants to weaken the Endanger Species Act, putting protected animals like sea turtles at risk.

Dr. Heather Barron is the medical and research director at Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Sanibel Island. She explained what this means for conservation moving forward.

“Right now, we are in the midst of what’s called the sixth great extinction,” Barron said.

Barron said a normal extinction rate for a species might be five to six species on an annual basis.

“Right now, we are five to six species a day,” Barron said.

Barron said the Endangered Species Act has worked wonders for sea turtle species in our area.

“I think one of the great things about the Endangered Species Act that it really did it’s job in terms of 99% of the species that were protected under the act are still with us,” Barron said.

But the proposed changes for the act could mean the end to blanket protections for animals listed as threatened. It will make it easier to remove a species from the endangered list. Barron said species will be at risk.

“It really is a shame and a time where there are so many threats to wildlife and to biodiversity to have such an important act and such a critical juncture,” Barron said. “Habitat loss is just one of the things that ESA is going to affect, be affected with the weakening of the regulations.”

The administration’s changes to the policy are set to go into effect next month. But it could face delays due to environmental challenging the policy.

“The revisions finalized with this rulemaking fit squarely within the president’s mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public, without sacrificing our species’ protection and recovery goals,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in a press release. “These changes were subject to a robust, transparent public process, during which we received significant public input that helped us finalize these rules.”

Barron sees growing problems for habitat and wildlife in Southwest Florida.

“More people will move in the potential for the human-wildlife conflict increases and sometimes,” Barron said. “Wildlife comes off on the wrong end of that.”

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