Published: Tue, August 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Interior Dept. weakens protections for endangered animals

Interior Dept. weakens protections for endangered animals

The regulations reflect the Trump administration's latest move to overhaul the nation's environmental frameworks - in this case, a law credited with saving the bald eagle and grizzly bear from extinction.

Make it harder to designate critical habitat necessary for the conservation and recovery of listed species. Officials said those considerations would not affect listing decisions.

"This effort to gut protections for endangered and threatened species has the same two features of most Trump administration actions: it's a gift to industry, and it's illegal", Drew Caputo, Earthjustice vice president of litigation for lands, wildlife and oceans, said in a statement.

In the 45 years since its signing, conservatives have gone to extraordinary lengths to weaken the Endangered Species Act for the sake of economic growth - and the Trump administration has carried on the task of environmental deregulation with renewed vigor. Previously, threatened species, which account for 20% of listed species under the Act, would receive the same automatic protections as endangered species, according to the liberal Center for American Progress policy research organization.

But "a species could be listed right now and it would have no further protections than it did before it was listed under the act" until a species-specific review takes place, she added, and even then it was not clear how robust those protections would be.

Industry groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the Oregon-based American Forest Resources Council have supported changes to the Endangered Species Act. The key changes remove absolute protections for threatened species, weigh the economic cost of protecting a species and limit how climate change is used to determine the long-term future of a species.

The attorneys general of California and MA announced their intention to sue the administration over the changes to the act, and other Democratic-led states could follow.

"Undermining this popular and successful law is a major step in the wrong direction as we face the increasing challenges of climate change and its effects on wildlife", said Lena Moffitt, director of Sierra Club's Our Wild America campaign. They weaken protections for threatened and endangered species across the country.

Gary Frazer, an assistant director at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told reporters that the government would adhere to that by disclosing the costs to the public, without it being a factor for the officials considering the protections.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service - working under the Interior Department - administer the list of endangered species. "The consequences of climate change frequently play out over decades, so climate change will be factored in fewer times with this ruling than it would be in the current conditions".

Since taking office, the Trump administration has targeted more than 80 environmental and health regulations in the name of easing regulatory burdens on business.

"So it allows this death by a thousand cuts", said Boyles.

The new rules shift how these critical habitat areas are prioritized. But, "having the Endangered Species Act gives us the opportunity to participate in that recovery".

"This is a win for Montana and the West, and will help restore commonsense, science-based decision making when it comes to the Endangered Species Act", said U.S. Senator Steve Daines, a Montana Republican.

"These final rules are a good start, but the administration is limited by an existing law that needs to be updated", said Wyoming Republican Sen. "In the four decades since the Endangered Species Act became law, 99% of species protected under the Endangered Species Act have not perished".

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