(CN) – Environmentalists blasted President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget on Tuesday, saying proposed cuts to programs designed to protect endangered species essentially amount to a death sentence.
“The Trump budget is an absolute disaster for America’s endangered species,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “An administration that splurges on first-class travel for cabinet secretaries wants to shortchange crucial efforts to save our most imperiled animals.”
Trump’s recently released budget proposes massive cuts to several endangered species programs including protections for vital habitat, which received $20.5 million last year. Trump’s budget proposes $11 million for the programs.
Furthermore, the budget proposes a 17 percent reduction for the part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that studies potentially endangered species and ultimately decides whether or not they should be listed.
For Greenwald and others, it means the more than 500 species currently awaiting listing decisions could perish as the gears of departmental bureaucracy grind to a halt due to insufficient funding.
“The recent border wall construction waivers, opening of large swaths of critical habitat to oil and gas leasing, and legislative attacks in the form of “poison pill” budget riders all undermine protective, science-based statutes like the Endangered Species Act,” the Union for Concerned Scientists said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Several lawmakers urged calm because Trump’s budget is not likely to be enacted. Congress holds the purse strings and a certain measure of compromise has returned to the federal government with last week’s two-year spending agreement.
But Trump’s budget reveals the priorities of his administration. Many believe those priorities include a full-fledged assault on the environment in general and endangered species in particular.
“This budget will keep Fish and Wildlife officials from doing their job to protect endangered species,” said Greenwald. “Given the numerous and growing threats to wildlife from habitat destruction, pollution and climate change, cutting the agency’s budget is 180 degrees wrong.”
Some of the species that could suffer immediate harm include the Sierra Nevada red fox, the American wolverine, gray wolf populations in Idaho and Wyoming, the lesser prairie chicken and the sage grouse.
Globally, Trump has repeatedly vowed to reduce foreign aid, which world wildlife advocates say will hinder the fight against poaching and embolden wildlife traffickers.
The Center for Biological Diversity once again drew focus to the lavish travel habits of some cabinet secretaries, contrasting them with Trump’s avowed desire to reduce federal spending.
For instance, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is being investigated over a $12,000 chartered flight taken early last year. The center says that amount equals the annual recovery costs of one in four of the animals on the list.
The center has also repeatedly agitated against Fish and Wildlife even during the Obama administration, for what they saw as a sluggish response to listing requests.
Fish and Wildlife failed to hand down 17 protection decisions that were due in 2017, the center said in its statement Tuesday. The center has filed a notice of intent to sue, a requirement before filing lawsuits against public agencies.
But for now, the organization will continue fighting the priorities of the Trump administration spelled out in a budget proposal.
“Endangered whooping cranes, grizzly bears and many more of the nation’s more than 1,700 listed species would suffer under this deeply irresponsible budget,” said Greenwald.