Interior Department Proposes Major Changes to Wildlife Protections

A new proposal by the Trump administration aims to roll back some of the regulations enforced by the Endangered Species Act

He dismissed concerns that the changes were proposed in an effort to help the oil and gas industry.

The U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Marine Fisheries Service have proposed a broad set of changes to the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act-changes that would undermine the role of science and make the law far less effective, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The US administration of President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed sweeping changes to the 45-year-old Endangered Species Act which would roll back protections for threatened animals, sparking alarm by environmentalists.

"These regulations are the heart of how the Endangered Species Act is implemented".

The Center for Biological Diversity was quick to point out that had the same logic been employed in the 1970s, both the bald eagle and the grey whale would now be extinct.

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Of the many proposed changes, SCI generally supports the proposals to provide more flexibility to the management and recovery of threatened species and to modify how the agency establishes the "foreseeable future" when making threatened listing decisions. Threatened species are one level below that of endangered species, the most serious category.

But the FWS long ago adopted a blanket rule that the statutory prohibitions would automatically apply to all threatened species, unless the FWS adopted a "special rule" specific to a particular species that spelled out what restrictions applied. Environmentalists say the rule could mean threatened species won't have sufficient protections until their numbers dwindle to a point where it is hard to prevent extinction. Endangered species are now defined as "in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range", while threatened species are likely to become in danger of extinction within the "foreseeable future". Imperiled species depend on them for their very lives", Jamie Rappaport Clark, a former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service who now heads the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, tells The Washington Post "The signal being sent by the Trump administration is clear: "Protecting America's wildlife and wild lands is simply not on their agenda". Supporters say the change is necessary to spur development and jobs.

Those bills included a measure by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, to restrict designation of critical habitat on limited water infrastructure areas, and another by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, that would allow local and private studies to be submitted as evidence to remove a species from the endangered list.

The bill also aims to limit the evaluation of species' habitats to those that are occupied.

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