Con­ser­va­tion con­tro­versy

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists set to fight fed­eral ef­fort to ease pro­vi­sions of En­dan­gered Species Act

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Doyle Rice Con­tribut­ing: The As­so­ci­ated Press

A ma­jor over­haul to the En­dan­gered Species Act an­nounced Mon­day is stir­ring con­tro­versy.

The changes end blan­ket pro­tec­tions for an­i­mals newly deemed threat­ened and al­low fed­eral au­thor­i­ties for the first time to take into ac­count the eco­nomic cost of pro­tect­ing a par­tic­u­lar species.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion says the changes are de­signed to re­duce reg­u­la­tions while still pro­tect­ing species, but en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, promis­ing a court fight, said the changes will push more an­i­mals and plants to ex­tinc­tion be­cause of threats from cli­mate change and hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties. The act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1973.

At least 10 at­tor­neys gen­eral joined con­ser­va­tion groups in protest­ing an early draft of the changes.

“The re­vi­sions fi­nal­ized with this rule-mak­ing fit squarely within the president’s man­date of eas­ing the reg­u­la­tory bur­den on the Amer­i­can pub­lic, with­out sac­ri­fic­ing our species’ pro­tec­tion and re­cov­ery goals.”

Wil­bur Ross U.S. Sec­re­tary of Com­merce

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on Mon­day an­nounced a ma­jor over­haul to the En­dan­gered Species Act that it said would re­duce reg­u­la­tions. En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists said the changes would push more an­i­mals and plants to ex­tinc­tion be­cause of threats from cli­mate change and hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties.

The changes end blan­ket pro­tec­tions for an­i­mals newly deemed threat­ened and al­low fed­eral au­thor­i­ties for the first time to take into ac­count the eco­nomic cost of pro­tect­ing a par­tic­u­lar species.

The En­dan­gered Species Act pro­tects more than 1,600 species in the United States and its ter­ri­to­ries.

“The best way to up­hold the En­dan­gered Species Act is to do every­thing we can to en­sure it re­mains ef­fec­tive in achiev­ing its ul­ti­mate goal – re­cov­ery of our rarest species,” Sec­re­tary of the In­te­rior David Bern­hardt said in a state­ment. “The act’s ef­fec­tive­ness rests on clear, con­sis­tent and ef­fi­cient im­ple­men­ta­tion.”

Sec­re­tary of Com­merce Wil­bur Ross said, “The re­vi­sions fi­nal­ized with this rule-mak­ing fit squarely within the president’s man­date of eas­ing the reg­u­la­tory bur­den on the Amer­i­can pub­lic, with­out sac­ri­fic­ing our species’ pro­tec­tion and re­cov­ery goals.”

The act helped save the bald ea­gle, Cal­i­for­nia con­dor, the griz­zly bear and dozens of other an­i­mals and plants from ex­tinc­tion since President Richard Nix­tion on signed it into law in 1973.

At least 10 at­tor­neys gen­eral joined con­ser­va­tion groups in protest­ing an early draft of the changes, say­ing they would put more wildlife at greater risk of ex­tinc­tion.

“Th­ese changes crash a bull­dozer through the En­dan­gered Species Act’s life­sav­ing pro­tec­tions for Amer­ica’s most vul­ner­a­ble wildlife,” said Noah Green­wald, en­dan­gered species direc­tor at the Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity. “For an­i­mals like wolver­ines and monarch but­ter­flies, this could be the be­gin­ning of the end.

“We’ll fight the Trump ad­min­is­tra in court to block this re­write, which only serves the oil in­dus­try and other pol­luters who see en­dan­gered species as pesky in­con­ve­niences,” he said. “We’ll do every­thing in our power to get th­ese dan­ger­ous reg­u­la­tions re­scinded, in­clud­ing go­ing to court.”

Drew Ca­puto of the en­vi­ron­men­tal group Earthjus­tice said, “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. We’ll see the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in court.”

BREN­DAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists fear En­dan­gered Species Act changes might harm such species as the bald ea­gle.

GETTY IMAGES

The fu­ture of the monarch but­ter­fly could be af­fected if the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion over­hauls the fed­eral En­dan­gered Species Act.

GERRY BROOME/AP FILE

The En­dan­gered Species Act pro­tects more than 1,600 species in the United States and its ter­ri­to­ries, in­clud­ing the male red wolf.

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