The U.S. government announced Monday that it was scaling back the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1976. In the future, animals categorized as “threatened” will not automatically receive the same protections as animals listed as “endangered”, the more serious of the two categories. Officials will be able to decide not to fully protect such species if the economic impact of doing so would be considered too severe.
More than 1,600 animal species are considered “endangered” or “threatened” according to the U.S. government. Nonprofit NatureServe, whose assessments also inform the decisions which animals are considered protected in the U.S., currently list more than 6,000 species as endangered or vulnerable (threatened).
Comparing the current NatureServe database to a 2005 assessment of it, it becomes apparent that more species are threatened today than they were 14 years ago.
While many types of vertebrate (spinal animals) saw minor increases in the number of endangered and threatened species, invertebrates (spineless animals) have seen the number of endangered/threatened species go up much further. Especially grasshoppers and butterflies were affected, while fish saw the biggest increase in endangered status among vertebrates. Snails were heavily affected, with more than 1,300 species currently listed as either endangered or threatened. Globally, endangered species of the category molluscs (e.g. snails, slugs, worms, mussels, squid) rose by 125 percent between 2006 and 2018.