What Trump’s Triumph Means for Wildlife


Get ready for more drilling, mining, and logging on public lands and an agenda that values preserving wildlife—for hunters.

A 1,400-pound male coastal brown bear fishes while a one-year-old gray wolf waits for scraps in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. (Photo: Christopher Dodds/Barcroft Media/Getty Images)
NOV 11, 2016·
Richard Conniff is the author of House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties, and the Story of Life on Earth and other books.

For people who worry about the nation’s (and the world’s) rapidly dwindling wildlife, the only vaguely good news about Donald Trump’s election might just be that he doesn’t care. This is a guy whose ideas about nature stop at “water hazard” and “sand trap.” Look up his public statements about animals and wildlife on votesmart.com, and the answer that bounces back is “no matching public statements found.” It’s not one of those things he has promised to ban, deport, dismantle, or just plain “schlong.”

More good news (and you may sense that I am stretching here): Trump is not likely to appoint renegade rancher and grazing-fee deadbeat Cliven Bundy to head the Bureau of Land Management. When Field and Stream magazineasked Trump early this year if he endorsed the Western movement to transfer federal lands to state control (a plank in the Republican platform), he replied: “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold.”

This was no doubt the real estate developer in him talking, but his gut instinct against letting go of land will surely outweigh the party platform. “We have to be great stewards of this land,” Trump added. “This is magnificent land.” Asked if he would continue the long downward trend in budgets for managing public lands, Trump said he’d heard from friends and family that public lands “are not maintained the way they were by any stretch of the imagination. And we’re going to get that changed; we’re going to reverse that.”

This was apparently enough, in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s upset election, for Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, to suggest that “we share common interests in the protection of America’s wildlife and our great systems of public lands, which provide endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, wildlife observation, and other pursuits that all Americans value.”

Meanwhile, pretty much all others active on wildlife issues were looking as if the floor had just dropped out from under them, plunging them into a pool of frenzied, ravenous Republicans. At the website for the Humane Society, where a pre-election posting warned that a Trump presidency would pose “an immense and critical threat to animals,” an apologetic notice said, “The action alert you are attempting to access is no longer active.”

They have reason to be nervous. Trump has surrounded himself with political professionals who do not think sweet thoughts about wildlife. Newt Gingrich, for instance, loves animals—but mainly in zoos rather than in inconvenient places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Reince Priebus, a likely choice for chief of staff, was part of a Tea Party revolution in Wisconsin that put Gov. Scott Walker in power. Just to give you a sense of what that could mean for a Trump administration, Walker handed over control of state parks and other lands to the hook-and-bullet set while shutting out biologists and conservationists. Chris Christie? Rudy Giuliani? Let’s just not talk about them.

Trump’s main advisers on wildlife appear to be his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and they seem to care only about hunting and fishing. Donald Jr. has publicly expressed a wish to run the Department of the Interior, though his only known qualification for the job is his family name. More likely, as he told Outdoor Life during the campaign, he will help vet the nominees for Interior, “and I will be there to make sure the people who run the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and so on know how much sportsmen do for wildlife and conservation and that, for the sake of us all, they value the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.”

You may be stumbling over that Christ-like phrase “for the sake of us all.” But you should really be worrying about the “North American Model.” It’s a code phrase for managing public lands primarily for hunting and fishing and only secondarily, if at all, for nongame species—or for hiking, bird-watching, camping, or other uses. In practice it can mean eradicating wolves because hunters consider them competition for elk or moose. (Donald Jr.: “We need to reduce wolves and rebuild those herds.”) It can mean cutting back funding for songbird habitat and spending it instead on fish stocking.

Like his father, Donald Jr. has opposed selling public lands, mostly because it “may cost sportsmen and women access to the lands.” But he believes states should help govern federal lands, calling shared governance “especially critical when we pursue our idea of energy independence in America. As has been proven in several of our Western States, energy exploration can be done without adverse affects [sic] on wildlife, fisheries or grazing.” (America has come tantalizingly close to energy independence under President Obama—without moving new drilling rigs onto public lands—and there is no evidence for the broad-brush notion that energy exploration is harmless to wildlife.)

Two other major considerations to keep in mind: If Trump goes ahead with his favorite plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, it would cut off vital migratory routes and habitat for jaguars, ocelots, desert bighorn sheep, black bears, and many other species. (It might also impede the flow of fed-up Mexicans heading south.)

Likewise, trashing the Paris Agreement on climate change, as Trump has promised to do, would gain the United States nothing and risk committing the planet irrevocably to warmer temperatures, extreme weather events, and massively destructive coastal flooding. That doesn’t make sense even from a business perspective, and much less so for wildlife. The first documented extinction of a species by human-caused climate change occurred this year, when the Bramble Cay melomys succumbed to rising sea levels in its South Pacific island home. Thousands of other species also face disruption of their habitat and the likelihood of imminent extinction.

The bottom line is that a Trump administration is likely to be good for mining, drilling, logging, and the hook-and-bullet set. But for wildlife and for Americans at large? We are facing four dangerous years of self-serving gut instinct and reckless indifference to science, with the damage to be measured, as climate activist Bill McKibben put it the other day, “in geologic time.”

If you are feeling as if a Trump victory is the end of the world as we know it, you may just be right.


20 thoughts on “What Trump’s Triumph Means for Wildlife

  1. The republicans are generally anti-science, anti-logic, arti-fact, alternative universe party, make believe what -they-want party. They are the the party of climate change denial, the only free world major party this obtuse and paranoid (believing climate change a leftist conspiracy). The GOP has voted against the environment and wildlife 90%-99%the time in the past 15 years. Examples: MT Senator Steve Daines ® has voted against the environment 99% of the time, Congressman Ryan Zinke ® of MT 97% of the time. GOP capitalistic, self-centered greed is no doubt a major factor. But many on the GOP far right believe in creationism. It is basically a party that is anti-logic, anti-science, anti-facts when it conflicts with capitalistic short-term, self-centered greed (no concern for the environment, let’s make a buck now). It is the Anthropocene Extinction Party.

  2. Don Jr. Helped Pick the Interior Secretary Because He Likes Hunting
    New York Magazine 12/14/2016

    Conflict of interest? What conflict of interest? Read the full story

  3. So Trump picked Ryan Zinke from Montana to be Secretary of the Interior. Zinke is a long-time hunter and fisherman, who wants public access to federal lands, and who as voted against environmentalists and for coal extraction and oil drilling. (Not that Obama’s choice of rancher Ken Salazar was any better!).

    Anyway, just about what we could expect from Trump.

    So Jamie Rappaport Clark of Defenders of Wildlife responds that “we share common interests in the protection of America’s wildlife and our great systems of public lands, which provide endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, wildlife observation, and other pursuits that all Americans value.”

    Oh, please! She is more interested in money and memberships, in appearing reasonable and nonradical, than she is in saving the wilderness and the lives in it.

    • I used to donate to her organization until the infamous profanity peak wolf pack slaughter and read on a blog that she didn’t do anything to stop it. I think we are desperately in need of true environmental organizations. I have lost faith in so many of them.

      • Jamie just took over the Defenders right after the wolves of Montana were delisted and along went protections for Wyoming and Idaho in 2011. That was the start of the anti-wolf wars that since then have killed 4200 of them involving other states. I have donated nothing to them since then. Also told Jon Tester he didn’t deserve to be re-elected but he was.

      • I am going through organizations that I have been supporting and remove those that I am not happy with from my list. So far I have removed Defenders, Greenpeace and NRDC. I considering smaller more focused groups.

      • Some interesting information for those interested:

        The Libertarian Party and the Environment | Legal Planet
        Aug 4, 2016 – The Libertarian Party platform leaves many open questions about environmental protection. … “Competitive free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems.

  4. At least he’s supposedly a proponent of keeping the public lands public. Let’s see what happens.

    Climate change. Hmmmmm. There’s only 300 or less wolverines in the lower 48, and their habitat is threatened by melting snow and ice from climate change. But, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service under the current administration, there’s not enough evidence yet (!) that their threatened habitat will harm them. “Ambiguous” is the term Dan Ashe used. A judge saw differently, and ordered the wolverines to be protected. I’m not sure where it stands right now. Meanwhile, hunting ant trapping hasn’t been hindered.



    I know that Republicans are no friends of wildlife; but let’s not kid ourselves that the Democrats are anything more than marginally better. So not only do we have the giveaways damage done under the Obama administration, but those from Trump’s administration in addition. 😦

  5. Again, I will say this: as far as the Dems go (I was an independent), and was not a fan of Obama when he was first elected, when most people were congratulating themselves on all the wonderful “hope and change” coming.
    But, this Regime, under Trump and the GOP cronies has much more far reaching consequences for all life on this planet. So, let’s quit minimizing this Regime, digressing about “Hilary, the Dems,” etc.
    By the way: any connections Hilary had with Goldman Sachs are minuscule compared to this politically, socially, environmentally dangerous Trump bunch, with most of his appointments having direct connections with Goldman Sachs, and who are filthy rich.
    Trump’s picks for Every government position are beyond the pale in terms of Right-Wing, Billionaire, Oil/Gas/Big Agriculture/Privatization, Racism, Sexism, Anti-Climate Change, Anti-Birth control and Abortion Rights, Denial of Human Overpopulation, along with further disruption & political in stability in the Middle East—denying any rights to Palestinians, whose land has been stolen by Israel.
    Having served in the Armed Forces (U.S. Air Force-NORAD) I am familiar with just how close we are becoming to an ALL OUT Nuclear confrontation in the Middle East, because of Trump’s connections and unstable mind, along with his recent appointees.

    Please, understand. This is far more serious than anything Hilary, Obama, or–hate to say it–even G.W. Bush did, or could have done.

  6. Dear Ida: I beg you: this planet and other life does not “have time to see what happens. Or, as as another person has said on this site, “let’s see how this all plays out.” This is the thinking that permeated this campaign, and that is why Trump got the Electoral College, and is now in complete, maniacal power. The Earth does not have time, the wolves do not have time, the whales do not have time, to see what happens. They know every day what happens, every time a bullet, a trap gets them, or a harpoon.
    If people on this site cannot finally wake up and grasp the utter seriousness of this election, then there is absolutely No Hope for non-humans or The Wild–None.

  7. For my part, I will throw my support behind environmental organizations that have the true spirit of uncompromising fight against animal abusers, habitat destruction and environment polluters. I have already pulled my support from a few organization that did nothing during the past eight year but send thank you emails to 0bama. I hope I can find better organizations to replace them.

    • Note: Keeping “public lands public” under this Regime, means keeping these lands open–so they can expand more hunting, trapping, along with fossil fuel extraction which will be far more expansive under the Trump Regime. The idea of public lands, to keep them wild and free is not something that Trump, nor his Goldman Sachs appointees care about or understand.

      • I know what is being proposed, all the horrible things that you listed. I also know that it started when 0bama was in WH. What we need is to have a few committed environmentalist organizations to continually expose and challenge these plans. I will definitely throw all my support behind such organizations. I have already started going through the list of accomplishments and activities of a few organizations to find the right ones to support.

      • So, damovand, now, you are accusing Obama of “starting this?” Apparently you have run out of things to accuse Hilary about, eh? Of course, as usual, you are incorrect. But, what can one expect of someone who has been hanging out on the Right-Wing, Racist “Armory” blog with your apparent “mentor” Roland Vincent, who claims to be a Socialist, but is hiding behind the Fascist curtain of lies and distortion. This was exactly how the Nazis came into power in 1930’s Germany, and what the Trump organization is doing today. There were Nazi sympathizers then, and there are Neo-Nazi sympathizers now.
        For one who is so enamored of Racist, Ayn Rand, who shrugged off black slavery, and excused, and even condoned the Genocide of Native Americans, you at least should have bothered to read who and what Rand really is about, before you come on this blog to spread your ignorant racist, “free market” crap:
        “Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged can teach us a lot about the vaunted American ideal of pompous, adolescent selfishness. The primary message of the book can be boiled down to the general theme that all economic regulations and worker safeguards should be abolished and that rich corporate executives should be allowed to do anything they want.” http://www.alternet.org/culture/10-things-i-discovered-about-ayn-rands-addled-brain-after-reading-atlas-shrugged

        You may think you can get away with your “Armory-alleged animal rights” junk propaganda on this blog, but you had just better get used to being heavily critiqued and opposed, at Every Turn. What you defend, is exactly why this planet and all her other life is in such deep crisis.

      • By the way, I wrote a lot of other things on this blog many of them dealing with the plight of animals, and even proposing that food production should be done by local non-profit farms. Amazing the only thing you found important from all my posts was my reference to Ayn Rand! You see what I mean when I say you are not an animal welfare activist?

    • By the way rosemary lowe whoever you are, you never fooled me for a minute that you gave a crap about animals. Your agenda was clear from the moment you started your messages with labels like racist, sexist and fascist and the bullshit like your last post. I have news for you idiot that lingo is not used where people are concerned with animals. That language is used when people are about spreading some political dogma. If you want to hide in sheep’s clothing at least learn the mannerism.

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