Pres. Trump aims to end automatic protections for some species

A four-month old white lion cub is presented to the press at the Altiplano zoo in Tlaxcala Mexico

"This change will not affect the protections for species now listed as threatened, but will ensure that species listed as threatened in the future receive the protections tailored to the species' individual conservation needs", said the Fish and Wildlife Service in a statement.

The proposal 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.

"These rules will be very protective", said U.S. Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, adding that the changes also will reduce the "conflict and uncertainty" associated with many protected species. The Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, has used industry guidance documents and policy memos to dial back its oversight of air pollution under the Clean Air Act. The Endangered Species Act (ESA), many have argued, is outdated, costly and allows for too many lawsuits from environmental organizations. Even though most endangered species now occupy small fractions of their historic range, those areas would effectively be precluded from ever helping a species recover.

Under the proposal, the federal government will for the first time create a definition. Under the proposal the definition of foreseeable future extends "only so far as we can reasonably determine that the conditions posing the potential danger of extinction are probable", the Interior Department said.

Environmental advocates said they vigorously oppose the proposed changes, describing them as attempts to strip a decades-long tradition.

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Another significant change, which has been rumored since April, affects what is known as the "Removal of Blanket Section 4 (d) Rule". Species now under consideration for protections are considered especially at risk, including the North American wolverine and the monarch butterfly, they said. Endangered species are at risk of extinction throughout much of their range, whereas threatened species are likely to become endangered in the near future.

"We are proposing these improvements to produce the best conservation results for the species while reducing the regulatory burden on the American people", U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan, said in a statement.

The proposal specifically targets the Endangered Species Act, which was established in 1973.

There are hundreds of animal species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, including the Yosemite toad, the piping plover and the northern spotted owl. Less than a month into his presidency, the Senate held a hearing to discuss ways to "modernize the Endangered Species Act", which included gripes about how the law kills jobs, violates states' rights, and is unfair to landowners. The Department of Interior could implement them after a 60-day public commentary period beginning Thursday.

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