States vow suit over endangered species rollback

Cheryl Sanders
August 13, 2019

The changes included allowing economic cost to be taken into account as the federal government weighs protecting a struggling species, although Congress has stipulated that economic costs not be a factor in deciding whether to protect an animal.

"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", Sen.

The Endangered Species Act, which Republican President Richard Nixon signed into law in 1973, protects more than 1,600 plant and animals species today, and is credited with saving the California condor, the Florida manatee, the gray whale and grizzly bear among others. "The Administration ignored the hundreds of thousands of objections from scientists, wildlife experts and the American people who overwhelmingly support the Endangered Species Act", Rebecca Riley, legal director for the Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in the statement.

Several conservation groups also have promised court fights.

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.

"The climate crisis underlies so much of the extinction crisis", but the rule could make it more hard to use the climate data to protect species in the United States, said Rebecca Riley, legal director of the nature program for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The Trump administration says the changes will reduce regulatory burdens while preserving protections for wildlife.

David Hayes, the executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law and a former interior deputy secretary under the Obama and Clinton administrations, called the rollback "dangerous". The act now protects more than 1,600 species in the United States and its territories. "Another change could let authorities disregard impacts from climate change, one of the largest threats to habitat, conservation groups said".

Ten state attorneys general have announced plans to sue over the new regulation. Republican lawmakers have pushed for years to change the Endangered Species Act itself, in Congress.

The rules were changed as part of President Donald Trump's mandate to scale back government regulations on behalf of businesses.

MA and California will lead a multi-state lawsuit joined by conservation groups once the final rule is published in the Federal Register in the coming weeks, challenging what they say was an "illegal" process to revise it. "We'll see the Trump administration in court".

A United Nations report warned in May that more than 1 million plants and animals globally face extinction, some within decades, owing to human development, climate change and other threats.

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.

In Washington state, Ray Entz, wildlife director for the Kalispel tribe, spoke of losing the struggle to save the last wild mountain caribou in the lower 48 states, despite the creature's three decades on the Endangered Species List. "It was a tough pill to swallow". But, "having the Endangered Species Act gives us the opportunity to participate in that recovery".

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