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Piping plovers of Montrose Beach fly in the face of Trump’s short-sighted environmental policies

The survival of the plovers offers an excellent argument for the Endangered Species Act — and why the president is wrong to water it down.

One of two piping plover chicks takes flight at Montrose Beach over the weekend.
Provided by Tamima Itani

Did you read about the endangered piping plover chicks on Montrose Beach?

They have begun to fly.

We can thank a group of Chicago bird lovers for that. They’ve been standing guard.

We can thank, as well, the Endangered Species Act, that strong set of protections of our nation’s natural world that the Trump administration moved just this week to weaken. Thanks to the Act, anybody messing with the plovers would face a federal lawsuit.

The survival of the piping plovers offers an excellent argument for the enduring importance of the Endangered Species Act and why the Trump administration is so wrong to water it down. We can choose to protect and preserve the glory of our natural world, which once lost cannot be regained, or we can throw it away for ephemeral short-term gain.

The fact that the two Great Lakes piping plover chicks are alive at all is cause for celebration. The bird’s survival rate in the best of circumstances is only about 50%. There are only about 70 known pairs of the bird in the world.

The plovers were hatched in July on Montrose Beach. Volunteers roped off the birds’ nesting area, and the Chicago Park District removed two nearby volleyball courts. But the single biggest threat to the plovers was a music festival on the beach scheduled for later this month.

Fortunately, our town got its priorities right. Music festivals come and go, but the Great Lakes plover, once gone, is gone forever. The fest was cancelled.

In the same way, we wish President Donald Trump would get his priorities right. His administration has worked to roll back long-standing protections of the environment, siding with industrial interests in almost every instance.

The far-sighted balance that other presidents struggled to strike between preservation and development would appear to be of no particular concern to this president.

The Endangered Species Act was signed into law in 1973 by a Republican president, Richard Nixon. It is credited with saving scores of species from extinction, including the bald eagle, the California condor, the humpback whale — and perhaps, in time, the Great Lakes piping plover.

We are all custodians, not owners, of our nation’s magnificent natural heritage. We are obligated to pass it on, in all its glory, to future generations.

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