Us Significantly Weakens Endangered Species Act
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WASHINGTON The Trump administration on Monday announced that it would change the way the Endangered Species Act is applied, significantly weakening the nations bedrock conservation lawand making it harder to protect wildlife from the multiple threats posed by climate change.
The new rules would make it easier to remove a species from the endangered list and weaken protections for threatened species, the classification one step below endangered. And, for the first time, regulators would be allowed to conduct economic assessments for instance, estimating lost revenue from a prohibition on logging in a critical habitat when deciding whether a species warrants protection.
Critically, the changes would also make it more difficult for regulators to factor in the effects of climate change on wildlife when making those decisions because those threats tend to be decades away, not immediate.
Over all, the revised rules appear very likely to clear the way for new mining, oil and gas drilling, and development in areas where protected species live.
The new rules are expected to go into effect next month.
Environmental groups, Democratic state attorneys general and Democrats in Congress denounced the changes and vowed to challenge them in Congress and in the courts.
Trump Administration Weakens Endangered Species Act Amid Global Extinction Crisis
Three monthsafter leading scientists warned that humans have driven up to 1 million species around the globe to the brink of extinction, the Trump administration has finalized a sweeping overhaul of the Endangered Species Act, weakening one of Americas most important laws for protecting imperiled plants and animals.
The new rules, unveiled on Monday, change how federal agencies implement portions of the conservation law, making it easier to remove recovered species from the protected list and opening the door for more drilling and other development. It also scraps the blanket section 4 rule, a provision that automatically extends the same protections to plants and animals listed as threatened as the act affords those listed as endangered, and revises how agencies go about designating habitat as critical to species long-term survival.
The changes, first proposed in July 2018, allow federal agencies to consider economic factors when making decisions about granting species protections, which the law has previously explicitly prohibited, and potentially limit their ability to account for the impacts of future climate change.
The administration has said the overhaul will modernize and improve the law, lifting regulatory burdens while continuing to protect species.
Environmentalists see it as another handout to industry amid rising alarm that the ecosystems on which humans rely are collapsing, creating an existential threat.
Judge Throws Out Trump
WASHINGTON A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a host of actions by the Trump administration to roll back protections for endangered or threatened species, a year after the Biden administration said it was moving to strengthen such species protections.
U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in Northern California eliminated the Trump-era rules even as two wildlife agencies under President Joe Biden are reviewing or rescinding the regulations. The decision restores a range of protections under the Endangered Species Act including some that date to the 1970s while the reviews are completed. Environmental groups hailed the decision, which they said sped up needed protections and critical habitat designations for threatened species, including salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
Tigars ruling spoke for species desperately in need of comprehensive federal protections without compromise, said Kristen Boyles, an attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice. Threatened and endangered species do not have the luxury of waiting under rules that do not protect them.
Fish and Wildlife also said it will reinstate the decades-old blanket rule, which mandates additional protections for species that are newly classified as threatened. Those protections were removed under Trump.
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In 2021, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, filed a motion to remand the rules voluntarily in response to the environmental groups’ lawsuit.
The federal agencies asked the court to let them partially rewrite the Endangered Species Act regulations while keeping them in place, so that the agencies could conduct a review process of the changes before taking action. Such a process could take months or years to complete, according to environmental groups.
But the court decided to instead void the Trump-era changes altogether, arguing there was no reason to keep rules that were going to be changed anyway.
“Regardless of whether this Court vacates the 2019 Rules, they will not remain in effect in their current form,” Tigar wrote in his ruling.
“The court spoke for species desperately in need of comprehensive federal protections without compromise,” Kristen Boyles, an attorney at Earthjustice, said in a statement. “Threatened and endangered species do not have the luxury of waiting under rules that do not protect them.”
The Endangered Species Act has been credited with helping rescue species like the bald eagle, grizzly bear, Florida manatee and humpback whale since President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1973. The legislation currently protects more than 1,600 species.
A Brief History Of The Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act, signed into law by President Nixon in 1973, replaced two existing laws, the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, and the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969. In a letter to Congress on February 8, 1972, Nixon wrote, It has only been in recent years that efforts have been undertaken to list and protect those species of animals whose continued existence is in jeopardyWe have already found, however, that even the most recent act to protect endangered species, which dates only from 1969, simply does not provide the kind of management tools needed to act early enough to save a vanishing species.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously and the House passed it 390 to 12.
Since its passing, the act has been rather uncontroversial Jeremy Bruskotter at Ohio State University helped conduct a study of public opinion on the act and found that 4 out of 5 Americans support the ESA, which is inline with support from earlier polls dating back to 1996.
The first time the ESA faced controversy was in 1978, when construction of the Tellico Dam in Tennessee was stopped after the Supreme Court decided construction was in violation of the ESA. Later, 1979, Congress made an exception for the dam by adding a rider into an appropriations bill.
Since then attempts have been made to alter the ESA, for example the Obama Administration made it more difficult for citizens to petition process to list a species as endangered.
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This Rollback Is Just The Latest Attempt By The Trump Administration To Gut Environmental Laws What Motivates You To Keep Fighting
I think we can use the law to make sure America and the world is a cleaner, greener, and more just place. Over the past two years, the courts have been handing Trump one loss after another, ruling that the administration cannot flout the requirements of existing environmental laws. When were able to do things like block a completely senseless action thats going to resolve in several dozen dead grizzly bears, I feel like were doing a service not just for the bears and for the millions of people who care about them, were doing it for future generations.
On a more personal level, Ive seen a grizzly bear in the wild. It is a majestic sight. They are one of the living embodiments of what it means to be wild. I was able to see that grizzly because my parents and their parents before me made a decision to protect that species. I want my kids and their kids kids to be able to see them in the wild the way that I did. To be able to strike a blow against the Trump administration by using the law and to be heard in court on behalf of the millions of Americans and our client groups, that is inspiring.
The Endangered Species Act
The Obama Administration created a regulation that put hundreds of endangered plants and animals at greater risk of extinction by dramatically reducing protections for their designated critical habitat.
The administration issued a policy that allows the FWS to exclude areas from critical habitat based on, in many cases, vague promises from landowners to conserve habitat.
The administration enacted a policy that drastically limits which species get protection in the first place by changing the significant portion of range provision.
ESA 4 rule loophole
The 4 rule was created to provide the USFWS with flexibility to protect threatened species. However, it has been exploited and used as a loophole to weaken or not protect species at all. The Center for Biological Diversity found that the Obama Administration used this detrimental loophole more than any other Administration.
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Extinction Crisis Looms As Trump Attacks Endangered Species Act
Earthjustices Drew Caputo breaks down recent rollbacks aimed at the Endangered Species Act, and what theyll mean for the future of our most imperiled species.
A juvenile grizzly stands in a summer wildflower field in Yellowstone National Park. The Trump administration’s Endangered Species Act rollbacks imperil grizzlies and many other species.
This week, the Trump administration finalized rules that overhaul the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, a bedrock environmental law that is both widely popular among the public and remarkably successful in protecting imperiled wildlife. The rollbacks come on the heels of several scientific reports warning that, as our planet heads straight toward a climate crisis, biological diversity is in a freefall and species extinction rates are accelerating.
For decades, Earthjustice has used the Endangered Species Act to protect wildlife like grizzles, wolves, and salmon. Weve secured and defended endangered species protections for countless plants and animals and our fights continue.
Drew Caputo, Earthjustices Vice President of Litigation for Lands, Wildlife, and Oceans, breaks down the rollbacks, who benefits from them, and how they threaten the future of our planet.
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Habitat conservation is a vital component of protecting species from extinction. Habitat degradation and loss is the leading cause of extinction. Keeping degraded habitat from being eligible for critical protections could seriously undermine the conservation and recovery of at-risk species. Erosion controls and development in the Southeast have already damaged places vital to coastal species survivalincluding shorebirds like piping plovers, beach mice like the Alabama beach mouse, and sea turtles like loggerhead turtles.
Similarly, many species historic habitat ranges will shift as a result of climate change, but the new definition will prevent federal officials from designating areas that are likely to become habitat in the near future due to climate change. Birds, reptiles, amphibians, marine species, cold-water aquatic species, and high-elevation species will be particularly susceptible to climate-change driven range shifts.
Across the Southeast, there are currently 255 species that receive protections under the Endangered Species Act by their classification as endangered , threatened , or experimental populations .
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Daily Torch: Trump Administration Steps In To Reform Endangered Species Act Regs But More Work Remains To Be Done To Fix It
Earlier this week, the Trump Administration announced some small changes to Endangered Species Act regulations, which should limit the laws negative impact on the economy. For example, the Administration is raising the standard for designating areas as critical habitat that are not currently inhabited by protected species. Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is rescinding a rule that generally treated threatened species as endangered species. The FWS is one of two agencies responsible for administering the ESA the other agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service , did not have such a rule so the FWS decision will bring the policies of the two agencies back into alignment. These regulatory actions are a good start, but Congress still needs to reform the failing law.
Moving Forward With The Biden
Now that we understand the recent past, and what the previous administrations did to wildlife and the ESA, we move forward and ensure the Biden-Harris Administration does better. In addition to the great legislation, we might pass in Congress, we have the potential to do great things for imperiled wildlife with the Biden Administration.
President Obama filled his cabinet with moderates and conservatives that were not helpful for wildlife. So far, some of President-Elect Bidens nominations have given us hope, including Deb Haaland as Secretary of Interior, Michael Regan as EPA Administrator, and Gina McCarthy and John Kerry working on climate change.
We do have concerns about some others but we will watch as the nomination hearings progress and will weigh in throughout the process on behalf of wildlife and plants for our members and supporters.
In 2021, we must, as a coalition, not get intoxicated by access or be seduced by leadership using words, like science and biodiversity and environmental justice. We must look at their actions and push them hard to keep their promises.
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Trump Administration Weakens Endangered Species Act
Grey wolves are one of more than 1,600 threatened and endangered species protected under the US Endangered Species Act.Credit: Riccardo Savi/Getty
President Donald Trumps administration is making drastic changes to how the Endangered Species Act is applied. The revisions weaken protections for threatened species, and will allow federal agencies to conduct economic analyses when deciding whether to protect a species.
The changes, finalized by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service on 12 August, are among the most sweeping alterations to the law since it was enacted in 1973.
The US government says that these updates will ease the burden of regulations and increase transparency into decisions on whether a species warrants protections. But critics say that the revisions cripple the ESAs ability to protect species under increased threat from human development and climate change.
These changes tip the scales way in favour of industry, says Brett Hartl, government-affairs director for the environmental advocacy group the Center for Biological Diversity, who is based in Washington DC. They threaten to undermine the last 40 years of progress.
The Attorneys General of California and Massachusetts have already announced their intention to sue the Trump administration over the changes, which they call unlawful.
How Will The Changes Impact At
After the rule change, species at-risk will be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. The new rules are not retroactive, meaning protections in place for the species already listed as endangered and threatened will not change.
The details of how this works out on a case-by-case basis will really show us what this means going forward, but there are some concerns from the conservation community, says Jon Beckmann, conservation scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Beckmann, who has worked in conservation of grizzly bears and other endangered species, tells TIME theres uncertainty going forward over how difficult it might be to classify a species as endangered or threatened, and what protections can be established to recover species that do end up on the list.
We understand as conservationists that peoples livelihoods and economics are part of the fabric of conservation we work in, Beckmann says. Obviously economics and peoples livelihoods needs to be part of the conversation in the equation when were talking about how best to recover species or to mitigate the impact, but theres just concern that itll be economics that drive the listing process.
But despite that, the act has been remarkably effective in preventing extinction, Gerber says. And I attribute that to the success of the act.
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In the Amazon.The United Nations Development Program has worked with energy companies in the region to quash opposition and keep oil flowing, internal documents and interviews with several officials show. The collaboration is one example of how the organization will at times partner with polluters that work against the interests of the communities the agency is supposed to help.
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But missing from most of the coverage of the rule changes were the voices of people who had often paid a steep price for those success stories: loggers put out of work by the Spotted Owls ESA listing in 1990 or ranchers whose herds had been attacked by grey wolves. These men and women who work in resource extraction industries actually care deeply for the land and have a long and proud tradition of fighting to protect nature. Yet they are siding with the Trump Administration over the ESA rule changes. And thats the result of decades of environmentalists ignoring the economic consequences of the ESA on these populations.
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Biden Administration Reverses Trump Endangered Species Rule
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Federal regulators Wednesday canceled a policy adopted under former President Donald Trump that weakened their authority to identify lands and waters where declining animals and plants could receive government protection.
The move was the latest by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service undoing changes to the Endangered Species Act that industry and landowner groups had won under Trump. President Joe Biden ordered a broad review of his predecessors environmental policies after taking office in 2021.
One Trump measure required regulators not to designate areas as critical habitat if there would be greater economic benefit from developing them.
That forced the agency to disprove speculative claims of economic harm made by industries such as mining, logging, and oil and gas as they sought to extract resources from public lands, said Earthjustice, a law firm that represents environmental groups.
In a 48-page document explaining withdrawal of the rule, the agency said it gave outside parties an outsized role in determining which areas were needed for preserving imperiled species while undermining the Fish and Wildlife Services authority.
The Service is the federal governments lead agency on endangered species, responsible for conserving the nature of America for future generations, agency Director Martha Williams said.
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