President Trump rule to change enforcement of Endangered Species Act

A grizzly bear and a cub along the Gibbon River in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

A grizzly bear and a cub along the Gibbon River in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

The Trump administration moved on Monday to weaken how it applies 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.

The changes included allowing economic cost to 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. The prohibition was meant to ensure that the logging industry, for example, would not be able to push to block protections for a forest-dwelling animal on economic grounds.

According to the New York Times, the changes will make it more hard for federal regulators to consider climate change when deciding to grant protection to habitats of endangered or protected species.

California and MA say they'll go to court to fight the Trump administration's overhaul of the Endangered Species Act. While once-endangered bald eagles are booming again in the Chesapeake Bay, the overall trajectory of endangered species and the federal act that protects them isn't so clearcut. Republicans have long sought to overhaul the law.

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

"We also are clear that we're continuing to make listing determinations as directed by the statute exclusively on the basis of the best available scientific information and without consideration for the economic impacts", Frazer said.

Many western state lawmakers praised the move by the Trump administration. Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso said the revision was a good first step but Congress should also reform the Endangered Species Act. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said in a statement. "Today's actions will help achieve actual species recovery while providing much-needed clarity and stability to those who are too often held hostage by the ESA".

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service - working under the Interior Department - administer the list of endangered species.

It came hours after the administration announced broad changes to the way the government would enforce endangered species protections. Two states - California and MA, frequent foes of President Donald Trump's environmental rollbacks - promised lawsuits to try to block the changes in the law. "Another change could let authorities disregard impacts from climate change, one of the largest threats to habitat, conservation groups said".

"They're trying to narrow the evidence we can consider and narrow the scope of time we're going to be projecting the impact on these species ... limit the forward-looking data", like climate models, Riley said.

Since taking over the department, Bernhardt has taken action on 53 policy changes "requested or supported by energy companies and trade associations", almost two dozen of which reduced protection for wildlife, according to a Center for Western Priorities analysis.

"Ending this practice. would strain the resources of USFWS and NMFS, costing managers valuable time before they can take action to protect a species", said Kate Kelly, the organization's public lands director.

Conservation groups and attorneys general of several states including California and MA had been critical of the changes first proposed previous year, saying the were in violation of the goal of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Other environmental groups and some states are also expected to sue.

"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".

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