The Center for Biological Diversity issued this statement about today’s news about the Endangered Species Act:
In a massive attack on imperiled wildlife, the Trump administration today finalized rollbacks to regulations implementing key provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The changes, which could lead to extinction for hundreds of animals and plants, are illegal and will be challenged in court.
The three rules finalized today were developed under the supervision of David Bernhardt, the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and a former fossil fuel industry lobbyist. They severely weaken protections for threatened and endangered species across the country.
“These changes crash a bulldozer through the Endangered Species Act’s lifesaving protections for America’s most vulnerable wildlife,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “For animals like wolverines and monarch butterflies, this could be the beginning of the end. 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.”
One set of regulatory changes weaken the consultation process designed to prevent harm to endangered animals and their habitats from federal agency activities. A second set curtails the designation of critical habitat and weakens the listing process for imperiled species. A third regulation would eliminate all protections for wildlife newly designated as “threatened” under the Act.
The changes are part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to undercut protections for the nation’s air, land, wildlife and water.
“These regulations are totally out of touch with the American public, which broadly supports endangered species protections,” Greenwald said. “We’ll do everything in our power to get these dangerous regulations rescinded, including going to court.”
Under a change relating to federal consultations, impacts to critical habitat will be ignored unless they impact the entirety of an animal’s habitat.
The new rules 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. The rollbacks will also preclude designation of critical habitat for areas where species need to move to avoid climate impacts.
The new rules will sharply limit wildlife agencies’ ability to designate critical habitat in unoccupied areas needed for recovery. That ignores the fact that many threatened and endangered species have lost substantial range and need their historic habitats preserved to provide living space for recovering populations.
Conservation groups swiftly condemned the changes. Here’s a sampling of reactions posted to Twitter:
4 in 5 Americans support the Endangered Species Act and do not want to see it gutted, yet the@realDonaldTrump administration just finalized harmful regulations that would do just that. RT
to tell @SecBernhardt you oppose the #TrumpExtinctionPlan. #StopExtinction pic.twitter.com/WyF4NWlamd
— Endangered Species Coalition (@endangered) August 12, 2019
Trump finalizes disastrous rollbacks to the Endangered Species Act that will have profound effects on our nation’s rarest animals and plants. Disgusting and disturbing. We’re fighting back.
— Center for Bio Div (@CenterForBioDiv) August 12, 2019
BREAKING: The Trump administration has released final regulations that weaken the Endangered Species Act — the nation's most effective tool to #StopExtinction — despite recent reports of global mass extinction and over 800,000 public comments opposing the changes. pic.twitter.com/GZK1FndoQe
— National Parks Conservation Association (@NPCA) August 12, 2019
— Sierra Club (@SierraClub) August 12, 2019
BREAKING: The Trump administration has finalized its plan to gut the #EndangeredSpeciesAct to help Big Oil profit.
This comes just three months after scientists warned that humans have driven 1 million species to the brink of extinction.https://t.co/IiMGCjp8Cr
— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 12, 2019
Amid an #extinction crisis and #climatecrisis, the Trump administration just gutted America's #EndangeredSpecies Act, which has prevented the extinction of 99% of plant and animal species protected by the #ESA.https://t.co/fTjiUba0dc
— Wilderness Watch (@WildernessWatch) August 12, 2019
"As a whole, the rule changes are political, unwise, and will only increase litigation. They tip the balance in decision-making protection against vulnerable wildlife and undermine incentives for effective conservation." #EndangeredSpeciesAct https://t.co/FcnxqYbY9C
— Audubon Society (@audubonsociety) August 12, 2019
The Bald Eagle is one of many species that has recovered thanks to a strong Endangered Species Act. New #ESA rules that came out today will substantially weaken protections for wildlife. #conservation #ornithologyhttps://t.co/b5Fg0e25eU pic.twitter.com/OK9S8ldkz2
— American Bird Conservancy (@ABCbirds) August 12, 2019