This tribe’s courageous effort to save California condors could be shot down under Trump

By Renee Lewis / Source Fusion.net

Since President Donald Trump’s election, conservationists have been worried about the potential for wildlife protections to be scaled back in the name of economic growth.

Also worried is a Native American tribe in northern California that has been working for over a decade to reintroduce the nearly extinct California condor, the largest land bird in North America, back into the wild.

Alarm bells are ringing over what Trump and his federal appointee for the Department of Interior (DOI) will mean for the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Wildlife advocates worry that some species could disappear forever if those protections were scaled back, especially amid what some have called an extinction crisis.

While Trump hasn’t said anything specific about dismantling the ESA, Republican lawmakers introduced over one hundred bills last year trying to weaken the act.

They believe the act—which allows for conservation of endangered or threatened species and the conservation of the ecosystems they need—stunts economic development and transfers control of public lands to the federal government.

Trump’s appointee for head of the DOI, Ryan Zinke, is in charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) which oversees of implementation of the ESA. Despite that, Zinke has voted in the past to get rid of some protections under the act — worrying conservationists.

King of the sky

Amid this shift to the right in politics, the Yurok Tribe in Klamath, CA, has been working to reintroduce a species absent from their skies for more than a century. The California condor has a wingspan of about 10 feet and lives up to 60 years.

The condor used to range from Baja California to British Columbia, but factors including loss of habitat and lead poisoning meant they were nearly extinct by the 1980s. Since they are scavengers that eat carrion, California condors can be poisoned by ingesting lead bullets and fishing tackle embedded in the meat.

There are less than 500 individuals left in captivity and the wild.

In 2003, the Yurok Tribe voted to reintroduce the condors on their land. Biologists hired by the tribe found the area would support the birds. After that, the National Park Service (NPS), USFWS, and the Yurok tribe partnered to reintroduce California condors to the Redwood National Park in California.

They’re currently engaged in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in which they evaluate the viability of the plan, and they started having public comment meetings on the proposal in January.

Click here to read more on Fusion

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