Aug 12, 2019

Trump administration rolls back protections for endangered species

The Endangered Species Act helped save the bald eagle from extinction. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Trump administration finalized sweeping changes on Monday to the Endangered Species Act that roll back protections for at-risk plants and animals and make it easier to delist species.

Why it matters: The landmark act from the Nixon administration contributed to saving the bald eagle, the grizzly bear and the American alligator, per the New York Times. The Trump administration claims the changes will help reduce regulatory burden on the Interior Department.

A draft of the new rule released last year broadly adheres to the administration's new changes, per AP. These include:

  • Weakening protections and possibly delisting animals that are newly considered threatened.
  • Allowing federal authorities to consider the economic costs of protecting certain species for the first time.
  • Allowing authorities to ignore the impacts on endangered species from climate change.

The big picture: Oil companies, real estate developers, ranchers and other industries have long argued that the ESA creates roadblocks to economic and resource development, but GOP-led efforts to alter the underlying statute have previously fallen short.

What they’re saying: A number of industry and business lobbying groups applauded the move.

“The new revisions to the Endangered Species Act strike an appropriate balance between the protection of species and land and natural resource development."
— Christopher Guith, a senior official with the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce

But environmental groups said the changes will make it harder to protect polar bears, coral reefs and other species.

The regulations will allow for the construction of roads, mines, pipelines and "other industrial projects in critical habitat areas that are essential to imperiled species' survival," groups that include the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council and others said in a joint statement.

What’s next: Environmental groups and Democratic attorneys general from several states are expected to file lawsuits aimed at blocking the changes.

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