Washington D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released the final changes to three proposed rules of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These changes undermine the intention of ESA and put thousands of species at risk of extinction at a time when scientists aresounding the alarms that we are losing species at unprecedented rates.
Following the release Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) released the following statement:
“We are in the middle of an extinction crisis, and President Trump is bulldozing the most important tool we have to protect endangered species. These rollbacks of the ESA are for one purpose only: more handouts to special interests that don’t want to play by the rules and only want to line their pockets. This action by the Trump administration adds to their ongoing efforts to clear the way for oil and gas development without any regard for the destruction of wildlife and their habitats. I have serious questions on whether inappropriate political influence was exerted over decisions that should be based on the best scientific information.”
The erosion of the ESA on the Trump administration’s watch makes it more difficult to protect and recover threatened and endangered species and gives industry a free pass to destroy our environment. The reality is that the ESA has been working: 99% of species listed under the ESA have not gone extinct, and the ESA continues to enjoy bipartisan support across our country. Members of the public submitted hundreds of thousands of comments decrying Trump’s proposed changes.
Under these new rules, threatened species will no longer have guaranteed protections under the ESA, in essence nullifying the value of listing a species as threatened. Among other changes, the new regulations:
- Change the definition of “foreseeable future” to allow decisionmakers to ignore long term threats to wildlife, including threats from climate change.
- Allow agencies to create exemptions for critical habitat designations, particularly unoccupied critical habitat, which are often essential to the conservation and recovery of the species.
- Eliminate the blanket 4(d) rule, therefore threatened species will no longer have guaranteed protections under the ESA, in essence nullifying the value of listing a species as threatened
- Allow FWS and NMFS for the first time from considering economic factors during species’ listing decisions, which is contrary to the spirit of the ESA. With this change, the agencies plan to compile and reference information on the economic impacts of listing decisions, but claim it will did not influence their determinations, effectively undermining their own scientific review.
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