White House changes law pro­tect­ing en­dan­gered species

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Front Page - By Ellen Knickmeyer

WASH­ING­TON >> The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion moved on Mon­day to weaken en­force­ment of the 45-year-old En­dan­gered Species Act, or­der­ing changes that crit­ics said will speed the loss of an­i­mals and plants at a time of record global ex­tinc­tions.

Push­ing back against the crit­i­cism, In­te­rior Sec­re­tary David Bern­hardt and other ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials con­tend the changes im­prove ef­fi­ciency of over­sight, while con­tin­u­ing to pro­tect rare species.

“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,” he said in a state­ment. “An ef­fec­tively ad­min­is­tered Act en­sures more re

sources can go where they will do the most good: on­the-ground con­ser­va­tion.”

The ac­tion, which ex­pands the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­write of U.S. en­vi­ron­men­tal laws, is the lat­est that tar­gets pro­tec­tions, in­clud­ing for wa­ter, air and public lands. Two states — Cal­i­for­nia and Mas­sachusetts, fre­quent foes of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s en­vi­ron­men­tal roll­backs — promised law­suits to try to block the changes in the law. So did some con­ser­va­tion groups.

Un­der the en­force­ment changes, of­fi­cials for the first timewill be able top­ub­licly at­tach a cost to sav­ing an an­i­mal or plant. Blan­ket pro­tec­tions for crea­tures newly listed as threat­ened will be re­moved. The ac­tion also could al­low the govern­ment to dis­re­gard the pos­si­ble im­pact of cli­mate change, which con­ser­va­tion groups call ama­jor and grow­ing threat to wildlife.

Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wil­bur Ross said the re­vi­sions “fit square­ly­within the pres­i­dent’s man­date of eas­ing the reg­u­la­tory bur­den on the Amer­i­can public, with­out sac­ri­fic­ing our species’ pro­tec­tion and re­cov­ery goals.”

The En­dan­gered Species Act is cred­ited with help­ing save the bald ea­gle, Cal­i­for­nia con­dor and scores of other an­i­mals and plants from ex­tinc­tion since Pres­i­dent RichardNix­on signed it into lawin 1973. The act cur­rently pro­tects more than 1,600 species in the United States and its ter­ri­to­ries.

While the nearly half-cen­tury-old act has been over­whelm­ingly suc­cess­ful in sav­ing an­i­mals and plants that are listed as en­dan­gered, bat­tles over some of the listings have been years­long and leg­endary. They have pit­ted north­ern spot­ted owls, snail darters and other crea­tures and their pro­tec­tors against in­dus­tries, lo­cal op­po­nents and oth­ers in court and po­lit­i­cal fights. Repub­li­can law­mak­ers have pushed for years to change the law it­self.

John Bar­rasso, a Wy­oming Repub­li­can who leads the Se­nate En­vi­ron­ment and Public Works Com­mit­tee, said Mon­day’s changes in en­force­men­twere “a good start” but hewould con­tinue work­ing to change the act.

Mon­day’s changes “take a wrecking ball to one of our old­est and most ef­fec­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal laws, the En­dan­gered Species Act,” Sen. TomU­dall, a New Mex­ico Demo­crat, said in a state­ment. “As we have seen time and time again, no en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion — no mat­ter how ef­fec­tive or pop­u­lar — is safe from this ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

SCOTT MASON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

A bald ea­gle takes flight at the Mu­seum of the Shenan­daoh Val­ley in Winch­ester, Va.

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