Most Americans support Endangered Species Act despite increasing efforts to curtail it
22 July, 2018, 04:40 | Author: Darnell Taylor
The Trump administration is proposing significant changes to the way it enforces the Endangered Species Act that it says are a needed modernization of a decades-old regulations, but that wildlife groups say will put endangered animals and plants at risk.
The proposal, announced Thursday by the Interior and Commerce departments, would make it easier to remove animals from protected status and weaken rules that prevent federal agencies from harming the animals and their habitats.
As it stands, the term "endangered" applies to an animal or plant in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future.
The Endangered Species Act passed Congress in 1973 with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
Bernhardt's proposals modify key terms originally meant to strike balanced solutions for government agencies, landowners and environmentalists to protect and restore endangered species and the natural resources they need to complete their life cycles.
The public will have 60 days to offer comments to the proposed changes before a final plan is issued.
O'Mara said crafting case by case species management plans is an appropriate alternative to the blanket protections now given automatically to threatened and endangered species. But the definition of "foreseeable future" has been vague.
While the law is opposed by many in the logging, mining, farming and oil-drilling industries, environmentalists say they consider it sacrosanct and say changes planned by the Trump administration will likely bring lawsuits.
"Together these rules will be very protective and enhance the conservation of the species", Bernhardt said.
"We are concerned that the proposed changes will enable other considerations to influence decisions".
Developers, business interests and state governments, however, have long blamed the Endangered Species Act for land-use controls that trample property rights and thwart economic activity with little concern for their potential losses.
The changes are in keeping with a broader pattern of regulatory moves in the Trump administration aimed at reducing cost and other burdens for businesses, particularly the energy business.
Greg Sheehan, principal deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, would not argue with any of that.
Under the proposal relating to federal consultations, impacts to critical habitat will be ignored unless they impact the entirety of an animal's habitat - ignoring the fact that "death by a thousand cuts" is the most common way wildlife declines toward extinction.
The species of bird, called the sage grouse, has always been a point of contention between landowners and conservationists who have pushed for it to be listed on the Endangered Species Act.
"The conflicts the Trump administration is trying to avoid with these changes", she said, "will instead lead to more controversy, more costly legal battles and the loss of valuable time running out fast to save species on the brink".
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