Breaking! The Trump Administration Sued By Powerful Animal Welfare Groups For Weakening The Endangered Species Act

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Environmental and animal protection groups sued the Trump administration yesterday over its new regulations that dramatically weaken the Endangered Species Act.

Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on behalf of Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association, WildEarth Guardians, and the Humane Society of the United States.

The new regulations are an unprecedented weakening of protections for endangered species. Among other things, they allow consideration of economic factors in decisions about whether species are listed as threatened or endangered and strip newly listed threatened species of their protection. The new rules weaken protection of species’ critical habitat and relax consultation standards that are meant to ensure that federal agencies avoid jeopardizing species’ survival.

“Nothing in these new rules helps wildlife, period. Instead, these regulatory changes seek to make protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species harder and less predictable,”Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice attorney, said in a statement. “We’re going to court to set things right.”

Yesterday’s lawsuit makes key claims against the Trump administration’s new rules. The administration failed to publicly disclose and analyze the harms and impacts of the rules in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. The rules violate the language and purpose of the Endangered Species Act on multiple counts, and cut the American people out of the decision-making process by inserting new changes into the final rules that were never made public and not subject to public comment.

“Trump’s rules are a nightmare for endangered species,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Scientists around the world are sounding the alarm about extinction, but the Trump administration is removing safeguards for the nation’s endangered species. We’ll do everything in our power to stop these rules from going forward.”

The Endangered Species Act aspires to prevent extinction, recover imperiled plants and animals, and protect the ecosystems on which they depend. In the years since it was enacted, a remarkable 99% of listed species including the bald eagle, Florida manatee, and the gray wolf have been spared from extinction.

“In the midst of an unprecedented extinction crisis, the Trump administration is eviscerating our most effective wildlife protection law,” said Rebecca Riley, legal director of the nature program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These regulatory changes will place vulnerable species in immediate danger, all to line the pockets of industry.”

This is the first set of claims in what will be a larger legal challenge. The same plaintiff group filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue yesterday on additional claims related to Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act, including the new rule injecting economic considerations into listing decisions and the rule eliminating automatic protections for newly-listed threatened species.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans want to ensure that threatened and endangered species are protected for future generations,” said Senior Endangered Species Counsel for Defenders of Wildlife, Jason Rylander.

A 2015 Tulchin Research poll showed that 90% of voters support the Act, including 96% of self-identified liberals and 82% of self-identified conservatives. A 2018 study by researchers at Ohio State University found that roughly four out of five Americans support the Endangered Species Act. Over 800,000 people sent comments to the federal agencies opposing these changes.

U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for oil and gas companies, big agriculture and other special interests. Bernhardt oversaw the rollbacks to this critical conservation law.

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