The Environmental Protection Agency and the Endangered Species Act were two of the Nixon administration’s greatest accomplishments. Because of them, America’s air is cleaner, our water is purer and animals, such as the grizzly bear, the Florida manatee, the peregrine falcon and America’s national mascot, the bald eagle, escaped extinction.
The successes have been dramatic and lasting, but protecting the environment and the threatened species that live in it has never been popular with mining companies and the big corporations that drill for oil and gas. They long to exploit every inch of land they can get their hands on and have invested heavily in politicians — primarily Republicans — who promise to undo what Republican President Richard Nixon helped create.
Now, they have a president eager to do their bidding. President Donald Trump has appointed industry lackeys and lobbyists to run the EPA, the Interior Department and other governmental agencies charged with preserving and protecting the nation’s natural heritage. His administration’s latest move in a string of actions that have undercut conservation efforts is a plan to severely weaken the Endangered Species Act.
Nixon and Trump may have in common a deep streak of dishonesty and lawlessness that has made them both candidates for impeachment, but at least Nixon had a larger vision of his presidential role that guided him to engagement with China, detente with the Soviet Union and sound stewardship of the environment. Trump has no such vision. As a result, he is happy to ally himself with other greedy men who would have no problem killing off the bald eagles if they stood in the way of bigger profits.
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