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Photo: North Charleston / Flickr

The Trump administration’s detailed 2018 budget proposal, released on Tuesday, contains unprecedented funding cuts for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency and increased spending for a border wall.

Trump wants to slash the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget by 8.6 percent and the EPA’s budget by 30 percent. Meanwhile, the budget proposes an additional $1.6 billion to build 80 new miles of a wall along the southern border.

“Trump’s budget guts safeguards for our air, water and wildlife just so his billionaire buddies can make more money,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Sadly this budget proposal shows that Trump is no different than the most extreme members of the Republican Party who have waged war on endangered species and environmental protection for years.”

The Endangered Species Act has saved more than 99 percent of species under its protection from extinction and put hundreds of species on a path to recovery. This track record is remarkable considering Congress only provides approximately 3.5 percent of the funding that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own scientists estimate is needed to recover species, according to a Center report on endangered species spending. Roughly 1 in 4 species receives less than $10,000 a year toward recovery, so Trump’s additional cuts will likely be a disaster for these and many other species.  

The Trump budget cuts the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, which allows state and federal partners to recover currently listed species, by $34 million, a 64 percent reduction. The budget also reduces funding for foreign endangered species like elephants, rhinoceros and tigers by 19 percent, and reduces the funding for the listing program by 17 percent. Currently, 500 plants and animals are still waiting for consideration for protection.

“The Endangered Species Act is the world’s foremost law for saving species, but Trump wants to gut funding to recover imperiled wildlife from the brink of extinction,” said Hartl. “Trump squanders tens of millions in taxpayer dollars flying down to Mar-a-Lago to play golf every weekend, yet spending a similar amount to protect and recover our most endangered species is simply too much.”

The EPA cuts will hamstring many programs that protect the environment. Even before these proposed cuts, the agency’s programs for setting and enforcing air and water quality standards, regulating the use of toxic pesticides and other chemicals and cleaning up the worst toxic sites across the country under the Superfund program were decades behind schedule and generally out of compliance. This has real consequences for both people and the environment.

“Without question, starving the EPA of funding will mean more people get sick and die,” said Hartl. “Our land, air and water will be dirtier, and we’ll slide faster toward climate catastrophe. Rather than massive cuts, we should dramatically increase funding to protect ecosystems across the country and preserve our natural heritage.”

In place of much-needed funding to protect the planet’s future, this budget asks for massive spending on Trump’s disastrous wall. Construction of the proposed wall — along with related infrastructure and enforcement — would have far-reaching consequences for wildlife. It would cut off migration corridors, destroy habitat and add vehicles, noise and lights to vast stretches of the wild borderlands.

According to a recent Center study, Trump’s border wall would threaten at least 93 endangered and threatened species, including jaguars, ocelots and Mexican gray wolves. It would cut through several national wildlife refuges, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Big Bend National Park and many other natural areas that, besides acting as corridors for wildlife, are national treasures.

“Trump’s border wall would be catastrophic for the endangered plants and animals that live along it,” Hartl said. “It would almost certainly lead to the loss of magnificent species like jaguars and ocelots in the United States.”

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