The nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a deeply concerning signal of the incoming Trump administration’s approach to environmental issues that have critical implications for Maine wildlife and habitat.
Mr. Pruitt denies the scientific consensus around the existence of climate change and its connection to the actions of mankind. As Attorney General of Oklahoma, he joined in a lawsuit against EPA’s Clean Power Plan. He has actively opposed protections for endangered species and the health of public lands.
As a science-based organization, Maine Audubon supports public policies at the local, state, and federal level that use science to inform strong, responsible standards around issues like clean air, clean water, and protections for threatened and endangered species. A weakening of these standards and the progress the nation has made to date will pose a significant threat to wildlife in Maine and around the nation.
The very real phenomenon of climate change presents one of the biggest threats to wildlife and habitat in Maine. Increasingly, warmer and shorter winters affect many of our iconic species, such as moose, lynx, and our state bird, the Black-capped Chickadee. Warmer stream temperatures threaten Maine’s native brook trout and endangered Atlantic salmon, and sea level rise will erode our state’s coastal habitats, affecting endangered birds like the Piping Plover and Least Tern.
These risks also threaten the state’s economic success, which is inextricably tied to our environment. Many of our top industries — from tourism to fishing to forestry — rely on the state’s robust, diverse ecological systems. Water quality affects human health as well as property values. Stream fishing is an important mainstay in many rural economies, generating $100 million in wages, $200 million in retail sales, and $20 million in tax revenues annually. Coastal flooding poses a distinct economic threat to Maine businesses; in York County alone, flooding threatens over 260 businesses representing $42 million in wages.
Maine has a rich history of leading the nation toward stronger environmental protections. Sen. Edmund Muskie played a central role in the development and passage of landmark environmental legislation, including the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972. It is our hope that Maine’s congressional delegation will honor and protect that legacy, and will apply careful scrutiny to Mr. Pruitt’s record on environmental issues when considering his nomination. Maine’s wildlife — and the many jobs tied to the health and resiliency of our ecosystems — depend on it.