Published: Tue, August 13, 2019

Trump administration overhauls Endangered Species Act in bid to reduce red tape

Trump administration overhauls Endangered Species Act in bid to reduce red tape

"These damaging new rules will weaken protections for imperiled species and include language that is wholly contrary to the law".

In Idaho on Monday, meanwhile, officials reported that the state's sage grouse population has dropped 52% since the federal government decided not to list the birds under the Endangered Species Act in the fall of 2015.

To date the Endangered Species Act, one of the world's most effective environmental laws, has managed to preserve an estimated 99 percent of listed species, including the Florida manatee, bald eagle, American alligator and many others.

But Brett Hartl, a government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity conservation group, contended any such price tag would be inflated, and "an invitation for political interference" in the federal government's decision whether to save a species. This new rule will result in less protection for America's threatened wildlife and a higher likelihood of losing species forever as Earth's sixth mass extinction occurs.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official Margaret Everson said the changes "provide the maximum degree of regulatory certainty" while protecting species.

The Endangered Species Act has maintained broad bipartisan support since its inception in 1973, but it has long drawn the ire of some who see it as being overly restrictive to business.

The Trump administration finalized its sweeping rewrite of Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations today that undermine the conservation of threatened and endangered species.

The overhaul changes how the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration consider whether species qualify for protections, as well as how the agencies determine what habitats deserve special protections.

The three rules finalized today were developed under the supervision of David Bernhardt, the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and a former fossil fuel industry lobbyist.

Factoring in the cost of saving endangered species would likely have prevented other species from being listed in recent years, such as the red knot, a bird that flies through MA and will soon also be listed as a threatened species, wildlife advocates said. They weaken protections for threatened and endangered species across the country.

"With this change, the agencies plan to compile and reference information on the economic impacts of listing decisions, but claim it will not influence their determinations, effectively undermining their own scientific review", Grijalva said.

For 30 years, Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) has lead the fight to prevent marine animals from going extinct, and is now suing the Trump administration for permitting a new longline fishery in the Pacific Ocean despite a federal ban on longline gear created in 2004 to protect sea turtles.

The U.S. Department of the Interior said its changes to ESA implementation were created to increase transparency and effectiveness. This disregards the cumulative "death-by-a-thousand-cuts" process that is the most common way wildlife declines toward extinction. Earthjustice is a nonprofit public interest environmental law organization.

The rollbacks will preclude the designation of critical habitat for areas where species need to move to avoid climate impacts.

"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. "We shouldn't use economic factors to decide whether a species should be saved".

"Iconic species like the North Atlantic right whale are part of our heritage and deserve all possible protections in the face of the many threats to their continued existence", said Erica Fuller, a senior staff attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston.

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