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article imageNew US regulations could limit protections of threatened species

By Ken Hanly     Jul 24, 2018 in Environment
Washington - The US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) announced that they are rolling back regulations that are outlined in the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a law aimed at saving species that face extinction.
The potential changes could limit the areas that can be named as critical habitats, and alter the types of protections that threatened species receive.
Threatened species receives a revised definition
At present threatened species are considered as those that are at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future. The agencies will revise this to so that foreseeble future “extends only so far into the future as the [agencies] can reasonably determine” that the risk of extinction is probable." The US Fish and Wildlife Service plans to get rid of the ESA’s blanket rule that gave threatened species the same protections as endangered species.
The agencies also want to change how species are listed and delisted under the ESA
Now a species is delisted using the same criteria as had been used to put the species on the endangered or threatened list.
Greg Sheehan, principal deputy director of the US Fish and Wildlife service said: “One thing we heard over and over again was that ESA implementation was not consistent and often times very confusing to navigate. We are proposing these improvements to produce the best conservation results for the species while reducing the regulatory burden on the American people.”
Negative responses to the changes
Some environmental groups have already criticized the announcement. They argue that it will make it harder to designate new habitats for species threatened by climate change. Brett Hartl, who is government affairs director of the Center for Biological Diversity said: “This proposal turns the extinction-prevention tool of the Endangered Species Act into a rubber stamp for powerful corporate interests. Allowing the federal government to turn a blind eye to climate change will be a death sentence for polar bears and hundreds of other animals and plants.”
This would not be first attack on the ESA
The ESA was signed into law way back in 1973. The ESA has been credited with saving the bald eagle from extinction Nevertheless, according to CNN, it has been a target for Republican lawmakers in recent years who argue that the strict regulations have hampered logging, mining and oil industries. Just last year, Rep. Pete Olson, a Republican from Texas, introduced a bill that would make it more difficult for species to become listed as threatened under the law.
Another critical article claims: "The three proposed rules from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service would severely weaken protections for hundreds of endangered animals and plants across the country. They would also ensure that hundreds of imperiled species awaiting protection — like the monarch butterfly and the American wolverine — either never get safeguards or face additional, extinction-threatening delays. "
Other measures to weaken ESA introduced by the Trump administration
For the Trump administration it is open season on the ESA. A recent article in the New York Times notes: "The actions included a bill to strip protections from the gray wolf in Wyoming and along the western Great Lakes; a plan to keep the sage grouse, a chicken-size bird that inhabits millions of oil-rich acres in the West, from being listed as endangered for the next decade; and a measure to remove from the endangered list the American burying beetle, an orange-flecked insect that has long been the bane of oil companies that would like to drill on the land where it lives. "
Richard Pombo, a former congressman from California who tried to change the act more than a decade ago and is now a lobbyist for clients that include mining and water management companies said:“It’s probably the best chance that we have had in 25 years to actually make any substantial changes.”
More about US Fish and Wild, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Endangered species act
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