The Trump Administration Is Putting Threatened Species In Even More Danger

Clay Curtis
August 13, 2019

As the Trump administration on Monday rolled out plans to change the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, Attorney General Maura Healey announced plans to sue over the move she said would dismantle important protections for at-risk wildlife and their habitats.

One of Monday's changes includes allowing the federal government to raise in the decision-making process the possible economic cost of listing a species.

"The revisions finalized with this rulemaking fit squarely within the president's mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public, without sacrificing our species' protection and recovery goals", U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

The new rule has drawn criticism from the country's conservationists and environmentalists.

"The Endangered Species Act is one of the most popular and effective environmental laws ever enacted", the group said in a statement.

"These essential tweaks to the Endangered Species Act promise to make the law more effective and results-driven in the 21st century", said PERC Executive Director Brian Yablonski.

Conservation groups reacted in dismay, saying the rollbacks would pave the way for the gradual destruction of a listed species' habitat as long as each individual step was sufficiently modest. "We'll fight the Trump administration in court to block this rewrite, which only serves the oil industry and other polluters who see endangered species as pesky inconveniences". Earthjustice is a nonprofit public interest environmental law organization. "The sweeping changes made in these new regulations, however, will diminish the effectiveness of the Act and further imperil species already on the brink of extinction".

"Nothing in here in my view is a radical change for how we have been consulting and listing species for the last decade or so", he said.

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Others said the new rules would unnecessarily burden the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, forcing them to do irrelevant economic analyses.

Both Democratic state prosecutors pointed to a United Nations report earlier this year warning that more than 1 million species globally are in danger of extinction.

The report, written by seven experts from universities across the world, directly linked the loss of species to human activity and showed how those losses are undermining food and water security, along with human health.

"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. "It's very technical but they're all created to make it harder to protect species".

"There were some tears shed", Entz said, of the moment when tribal officials realized the animal had dwindled in the wild past the point of saving. The most famous species that ecologists credit the FWS with preserving is likely the bald eagle.

"Any time you open the door to economics you're, in my experience, opening up a Pandora's box", said Hatfield. "We shouldn't use economic factors to decide whether a species should be saved". "According to the Center for Biological Diversity", she wrote, "there have been at least 419 "legislative attacks" - that is, actions meant to weaken federal protection of endangered species - against the Endangered Species Act since 1996, 116 of which occurred during the current 115th Congress".

Earthjustice, an environmental legal group, also noted the act's popularity, citing research conducted with a polling firm showing that 53% of Americans "strongly support" the act and 37% "somewhat support the act".

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