Trump administration looks to limit some protections for endangered species

Rodiano Bonacci
Luglio 22, 2018

The US administration of President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed sweeping changes to the 45-year-old Endangered Species Act which would roll back protections for threatened animals, sparking alarm by environmentalists.

The proposal also rescinds what's known as the "blanket" Section 4 (d) Rule, which would effectively require tailored - potentially narrower - protections for species listed as threatened rather than extending to those species the same broad protections applied to the more serious category of endangered species.

One set of regulatory changes would weaken the consultation process created to prevent harm to endangered animals and their habitats from federal agency activities. For example, the administration has proposed a new definition of how it decides whether a plant or animal is in danger of extinction.

"This proposal turns the extinction-prevention tool of the Endangered Species Act into a rubber stamp for powerful corporate interests", said Hartl.

The proposal will also prohibit designation of critical habitat for species threatened by climate change, even though in many cases these species are also threatened by habitat destruction and other factors.

Endangered species are now defined as "in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range", while threatened species are likely to become in danger of extinction within the "foreseeable future". "Allowing a few individuals of species to exist on a small piece of land or a zoo is not what Congress intended in passing the (Endangered Species Act), nor is it what the American public wants".

The public will have 60 days to offer comments to the proposed changes before a final plan is issued. But the definition of "foreseeable future" has been vague.

Wildlife advocates and Democrats are anxious the proposed changes would accelerate extinction rates.

"We are concerned that the proposed changes will enable other considerations to influence decisions".

Despite this, legislative attacks on the federal law to protect endangered species have been mounting in recent years, lead author Jeremy Bruskotter of Ohio State University said in a statement Wednesday. Even though most endangered species now occupy small fractions of their historic range, those areas would effectively be precluded from ever helping a species recover.

Administration officials described the proposals as an effort to make good on President Trump's campaign pledge to cut regulations.

"ESA implementation was not consistent and often times very confusing to navigate", Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan said in a statement, explaining the changes.

"The conflicts the Trump administration is trying to avoid with these changes", she said, "will instead lead to more controversy, more costly legal battles and the loss of valuable time running out fast to save species on the brink".

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