Trump Administration Announces Weakening of the Endangered Species Act

A bald eagle in Kachemak Bay, Alaska.

A bald eagle in Kachemak Bay, Alaska. Andrew Morffew/ Flickr

The Trump administration announced it is rolling back key parts of the Endangered Species Act. The landmark regulation, which became law in 1973, has been credited with protecting hundreds of species in the United States from extinction, including the bald eagle, California condor, and the grizzly bear.

The new rules, announced today by the Interior Department, will make it harder to consider the impact of climate change on wildlife when making decisions on a species’ protected status; make it easier to remove species from the endangered species list; limit protections for species listed as threatened, but not yet endangered; and allow the federal government to determine the economic cost of protecting a species. The new rules finalize changes first proposed by the Interior Department last year.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt called the changes “the best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act” by ensuring it “remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal — recovery of our rarest species.” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross noted in a press statement that the revisions “fit squarely within the President’s mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public, without sacrificing our species’ protection and recovery goals.”

But environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers contend the new rules will severely hamper the Endangered Species Act’s ability to protect threatened plants and wildlife. Several green groups have already vowed to challenge the rollbacks in court.

The regulations “take a wrecking ball to one of our oldest and most effective environmental laws, the Endangered Species Act,” Senator Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, said in a statement. “As we have seen time and time again, no environmental protection — no matter how effective or popular — is safe from this administration.”

For more, click here to read former U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt’s opinion piece on why we must save the Endangered Species Act.