Opinion: Terry Irwin: We should strengthened Endangered Species Act, not weaken it
By DAILY CAMERA GUEST OPINION Boulder Daily Camera January 9, 2020
By Terry Irwin
Growing up in the East, I considered myself fortunate that almost all our family vacations were spent camping in Western national parks and monuments, including Rocky Mountain National Park and Dinosaur National Monument. During those memorable trips I was able to trek for hours on backcountry trails, seeing wildlife on every hike.
As an avid outdoors girl, I proclaimed to my family that someday I would live in Colorado. When I was finally able to move here, 23 years ago, I continued pursuing backcountry adventures in search of wildlife sightings, so grateful to live in such a beautiful state with populations of moose, elk, bison, fox, mule deer, mountain lions, black bears and bighorn sheep. When I began painting wildlife, it was with the hope that more people would be drawn to understand wildlife concerns.
Wildlife experiences directly impact and influence my work as a writer and as an artist. I’ve witnessed a dive-bombing peregrine resurface with talons clasped around flopping trout and American pelicans working together to corral fish in a shallow inlet. I’ve seen a newborn antelope snuggling close against its mother’s head as they both gaze across a lupine meadow, as well as wolves charging across a wintery landscape. I experienced a fox trotting down a game trail, then abruptly pounce head-first into tall grasses and a grizzly drawing her two young cubs to her chest to nurse.
Without these experiences, my work would be limited to the stoic animal behavior from within zoo enclosures. My art sketches would be limited to stiff mounted specimens in naturalist museums. It is truly a a gift, a privilege and a necessity in my work to be able to see wild animals, actually in the wild.
December marked the forty-sixth anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1973. Thanks to this legislation, the grizzly bear, lynx, greenback cutthroat trout (Colorado’s state fish) and countless others have averted extinction. However, just a few months ago, the current administration dramatically weakened the Act with new regulations that allow economic considerations to cloud endangered listing decisions and ignore scientific evidence of climate change impacts. Additionally, these new regulations remove automatic protections for species listed as threatened. At a time when there are an estimated 1 million species at risk of extinction, we should not be diminishing wildlife laws but, instead, strengthening them.
Thankfully, the Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish in Need of Conservation Act (the PAW and FIN Act), which would repeal these recent regulation changes, has been introduced in the House and Senate. Sen. Michael Bennet has yet to add his name to the list of co-sponsors, which already includes a half dozen of his Western colleagues.
Environmental victories are often temporary. Environmental defeats, likely to be permanent. I think of that concept when I consider how much we have to lose and how much is hanging so precariously in the balance. Please call Bennet’s office and urge him to co-sponsor the PAW and FIN Act.
Since the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, I’m grateful to the many people who worked hard to pass, implement and strengthen it. I consider the many opportunities I have — that we each have — to increase our understanding of what is happening in this finite world that we share with hundreds of other species. It is our obligation to act in guardianship of this fragile world and for those who cannot act on their own behalf.
So, in this 46th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, I encourage you to reach out to your representatives and use your voice to protect Colorado’s wildlife.
Terry Irwin is an artist, writer, photographer and traveler whose paintings and writings can be found at TIrwinArt.com. She lives in Littleton.