Maine Conservationists Decry Changes To Endangered Species Act


The US Interior Department announced significant changes Monday that would weaken how the Endangered Species Act is implemented, a move critics fear will allow for more oil and gas drilling and limit how much regulators consider the impacts of the climate crisis.

The changes end blanket protections for animals newly deemed threatened and allow federal authorities for the first time to take into account the economic cost of protecting a particular species.

But Brett Hartl, a government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity conservation group, contended any such price tag would be inflated, and "an invitation for political interference" in the decision whether to save a species.

"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 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.

California and MA say they'll go to court to fight the Trump administration's overhaul of the Endangered Species Act.

"We'll see the Trump administration in court", said Caputo.

The action, which expands the administration's rewrite of US environmental laws, is the latest that targets protections, including for water, air and public lands.

The attorneys general of California and MA announced their intention to sue the administration over the changes to the act, and other Democratic-led states could follow.

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Since taking office, the Trump administration has targeted more than 80 environmental and health regulations in the name of easing regulatory burdens on business.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service - working under the Interior Department - administer the list of endangered species.

Reaction to the changes divides along party lines, with Democrats and environmentalists saying the changes undermine the intention of Endangered Species Act and put thousands of species at risk of extinction at a time when scientists are warning that species are vanishing at unprecedented rates.

Agency officials said the actions will "modernize" the law, which is the framework to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats in the U.S. The law is widely considered a success and protects more than 1,600 species of plants and animals as well as their habitats. Prior to joining the Service past year, one of Everson's last duties as a private consultant was speaking at a legal education course sponsored by Safari Club International, a pro-hunting organization with a record of fights against the Endangered Species Act.

Curry says the listing proposal for the marten, released last fall, provided a window into the changes to come under these new rules.

"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.

The groups says that lifting the regulations will help "encourage states and landowners to recover [threatened species] before they reach endangered status".

Currently, 13 endangered species inhabit Alaskan lands; eight species have been recorded as "threatened" for the time being; and two species are under consideration for either of those lists.

Earthjustice, an environmental legal group, also noted the act's popularity, citing research conducted with a polling firm showing that 53% of Americans "strongly support" the act and 37% "somewhat support the act".