Trump overhauls Endangered Species Act, weakens wildlife protections

A bald eagle is seen along the American Trail at the Smithsonian National Zoo Aug. 11 2016 in Washington D.C

Trump overhauls Endangered Species Act, weakens wildlife protections

"The Trump administration's decision to finalize these unsafe rollbacks comes at a time when threatened and endangered species are facing increasing pressure from global forces like climate change, drought, desertification, deforestation, ocean acidification and the rapid destruction of critical habitats", Hayes said. "The Endangered Species Act works; our communities-both natural and human-have reaped the benefits".

The Trump administration on Monday finalized changes to provisions of the U.S. Endangered Species Act it says will streamline the decades-old wildlife protection law but which conservation groups say will threaten at-risk species.

Conservationists and some politicians decried the changes as a major rollback of the 46-year-old law credited with saving the bald eagle, grizzly bear, humpback whale, American alligator, and Florida manatee from extinction. "A third regulation would eliminate all protections for wildlife newly designated as "threatened" under the Act".

For the threatened species, unoccupied habitat might not be protected, opening it up for oil and gas exploration or other forms of development.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt unveiled the changes Monday.

"These changes crash a bulldozer through the Endangered Species Act's lifesaving protections for America's most vulnerable wildlife", Noah Greenwald, the Center for Biological Diversity's endangered species director, said in a statement.

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 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", said Greenwald.

"Instead of looking for solutions to the global extinction crisis that threatens up to one million plant and animal species, this administration has chose to place arbitrary and unlawful restrictions on the very federal regulators that Congress has tasked with protecting them".

Potential threats to business opportunities and other costs of listing a species [as endangered] must now be considered and shared with the public.

Trump rejects mainstream climate science and agencies such as the Interior Department have stopped weighing climate impacts in their regulations.

The final rule was panned by environmental groups for weakening protections, and is certain to be challenged in court. Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso said the revision was a good first step but Congress should also reform the Endangered Species Act.

"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".

"We must modernize the Endangered Species Act in a way that empowers states, promotes the recovery of species, and allows local economies to thrive", Barrasso said.

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