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Protecting rare birds, blue mushrooms and a prehistoric fish

This has been a beautiful summer in Connecticut. Everybody says so. The grass is greener, the hydrangeas are poufier, the tomatoes taste better than last year or the summer before. Best of all, the jellyfish delayed their arrival and have hardly mattered.

A Magnificent Frigatebird, rare over nontropical waters, was reported flying over Hammonasset State Park in Madison a week ago. Lavender-blue mushrooms sprouted in the gateway garden to Camp Harkness in Waterford last week. Yes, it rained a lot in the spring, but what a payoff.

When we add up the pleasures of the season or gripe about weather, we're talking environment. It makes us see the world in the particular way we each do. There is no getting around that humans are part of the environment and it is part of us. The normal, self-preserving instinct is for humans to protect what sustains them.

So what perversity would make the Trump administration remove protections for threatened and endangered species? Hubris? Greed? It is their latest in a series of assaults on the interconnectedness of living things, the whole food chain, drinkable water and breathable air. What is the point of having an Environmental Protection Agency that not only does not protect the resources we have but is headed by profit-minded people determined to put us at risk?

A majority of Americans grew up with the Endangered Species Act, which passed nearly unanimously and was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. They take it as normal that regulators weigh the preservation of habitats and survival of wild animals in permitting dams, pipelines, mines and other huge projects, and that decisionmakers were not allowed to factor in anyone's profit or loss. A decision to designate a species as threatened or endangered was, until now, to be based solely on the science.

The new rules are designed to slow down the process. They likewise flout international calls to factor in the long-term effects of climate change as habitats warm up, get washed over, or no longer grow the right food.

The activist Connecticut attorney general, William Tong, says he is looking at legal challenges, which could be joined with the hundreds or more that are likely from states and citizen groups.

What else can be done? Educate yourself about the Recovering America's Wildlife Act, RAWA, which is co-sponsored by Congressman Joe Courtney and would directly confront some of the EPA rule changes.

Write to the White House, EPA head David Bernhardt, Courtney, Tong and other elected officials to let them know your stance on defending the environment.

Think and talk about what the environment means to you, your children and grandchildren. Appreciation is a powerful antidote to uncaring rules. If you doubt that, think about the outcry when someone leaves a dog out in the cold, or the impulse to save a baby bird. Sign up for the Connecticut Audubon rare bird app; take an early morning hike; visit the creatures at the Mystic Aquarium. What you love you will resist losing.

And those critters may pay you back. Some of those who fought and won the battle to keep the Federal Railroad Administration from altering the lower Connecticut River bed for rail crossing firmly believe that it was the endangered Atantic sturgeon that carried the day. The huge, prehistoric-looking fish swims up the river to spawn, and under the old rules, its habitat mattered. Think about that.

Lisa McGinley is a member of The Day Editorial Board.



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