This past Monday, the Trump administration announced how it would fix how the Endangered Species Act is applied, which would in turn make it more difficult to protect wildlife from the many threats climate change poses.
The new rules would make it easy to remove a species from the endangered list and weaken protections for threatened species, the classification one step below endangered.
In addition, regulators would be allowed to conduct economic assessments estimating lost revenue from a prohibition on logging in a critical habitat when deciding whether a species warrants protection.
The changes would also make it harder for regulators to factor in the effects of climate change on wildlife when making those decisions as those threats tend to be decades away, not immediate.
The newly revised rule will help make way for new mining, oil and gas drilling along with development in areas where protected species live.
David Bernhardt, Interior Secretary, said the following in a statement:
“The act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation.”
The newly revised rules are expected to go into effect as soon as next month.
Democratic state attorneys general and Democrats in Congress as well as environmental group denounced the changes and vowed to challenge them in Congress and in the courts.
The attorney general of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, said the changes were “reckless” and states would “do everything we can to oppose these actions.”
The top Democrat on the committee that oversees the Interior Department’s budget, senator Tom Udall, said Democrats were considering invoking the Congressional Review Act.
It is a 1996 law that gives Congress broad authority to invalidate rules established by federal agencies to block the changes.
The Endangered Species Act has been regulators’ most important tool for protecting fish, plants and wildlife since it was signed into law by President Richard M Nixon in 1973.
Republicans have been saying how the law hurts landowners, hampers industry and economic growth.
In addition, they make the case that the law is not reasonable as species are rarely removed from the list. Since the law was passed, over 1,650 have been listed as threatened or endangered while just 47 have been delisted.
Republicans made a huge push to overhaul the law. Despite holding a majority in both houses of Congress, the proposals were never taken up in the Senate. With Democrats now in control of the House, there is a small chance of those bills passing.