Interior Dept. weakens protections for endangered animals

Trump overhauls enforcement of the Endangered Species Act putting an economic cost on saving a species

The prohibition was meant to ensure that the logging industry, for example, would not be able to push to block protections for a forest-dwelling animal on economic grounds.

"The administration's decision to dismantle the Endangered Species Act in order to benefit huge corporations will only further harm the environment".

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official Margaret Everson said the changes "provide the maximum degree of regulatory certainty" while protecting species.

"The climate crisis underlies so much of the extinction crisis", but the rule could make it more hard to use the climate data to protect species in the U.S., said Rebecca Riley, legal director of the nature program for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The changes include removing a rule that automatically conveys the same protections to threatened species and endangered species, and allowing information on economic impact to be gathered when making determinations on how wildlife is listed.

The new rules will also prohibit designation of critical habitat for species threatened by climate change, the Center for Biological Diversity said.

'These changes crash a bulldozer through the Endangered Species Act's lifesaving protections for America's most vulnerable wildlife, ' Noah Greenwald, the Center for Biological Diversity's endangered species director, said in a statement.

The move should not come as a surprise, since Interior Secretary David Bernhardt wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the Endangered Species Act (which is credited with saving bald eagles, grizzly bears, wolves, California condors, and peregrine falcons) is nothing more than an "unnecessary regulatory burden" on companies.

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Democrat Senator Tom Udall, who represents the state of New Mexico, said the new regulation will "take a wrecking ball to one of our oldest and most effective environmental laws". "That's the reason that Congress way back ... prohibited the Service from doing that", he said.

"Nothing in here in my view is a radical change for how we have been consulting and listing species for the last decade or so", Frazer added. "As we have seen time and time again, no environmental protection - no matter how effective or popular - is safe from this administration".

Conservation groups and attorneys general of several states including California and MA had been critical of the changes first proposed previous year, saying the were in violation of the goal of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

"By gutting key components of the Endangered Species Act, one of our country's most successful environmental laws, the Trump Administration is putting our most imperiled species and our vibrant local tourism and recreation industries at risk", said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

The report, written by seven experts from universities across the world, directly linked the loss of species to human activity and showed how those losses are undermining food and water security, along with human health.

A United Nations report warned in May that more than 1 million plants and animals globally face extinction, some within decades, owning to human development, climate change and other threats.

"There were some tears shed", Entz said, of the moment when tribal officials realized the animal had dwindled in the wild past the point of saving. But, "having the Endangered Species Act gives us the opportunity to participate in that recovery".

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