A new rule that would significantly limit the protections for endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was announced August 12 by the Trump Administration. The rule, originally proposed in July 2018, will go into effect 30-days after it is published in the Federal Register (as of August 15, publication had not occurred).
The rule, jointly announced August 12 by the Secretaries of Interior (which includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and Commerce (which includes the National Marine Fisheries Service), is being touted by the Trump Administration as “easing the regulatory burden on the American public.” However, environmental and conservations groups have a different take and reacted strongly against the new rule:
- “Undermining this popular and successful law is a major step in the wrong direction as we face the increasing challenges of climate change and its effects on wildlife.
- Lena Moffitt, Sierra Club
- “We are in the midst of an unprecedented extinction crisis, yet the Trump Administration is steamrolling our most effective wildlife protection law. This Administration seems set on damaging fragile ecosystems by prioritizing industry interests over science. – Rebecca Riley, Natural Resources Defense Council
- “Threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plants in our national parks already face habitat changes and impacts of a climate crisis that is accelerating each year. Instead of working with Congress and states to better protect and restore wildlife as the climate changes, the Trump administration is reinterpreting the Endangered Species Act to weaken protections. – Bart Melton, National Parks Conservation Association.
Among changes included in the new rule are: 1) the inclusion of economic considerations, in addition to scientific criteria, in determining whether a species should be listed or delisted (currently, only scientific criteria can be considered); and 2) ceasing the practice of providing the same protections to “threatened” species as those that have been declared to be “endangered.” The ESA issues that have been raised in about the Atlantic Coat Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline are not impacted by the new rule, as it is only applicable to the listing and delisting of threatened and endangered species in the future.
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