Trump Administration Opens Door for Corporate Attack on Vulnerable Wildlife

Trump wants to alter the legal language and redefine the requirements guaranteeing protection of threatened species

But Hartl said in a statement that, far from improving conservation results under the act, the proposed modifications are instead "a massive attack on imperiled wildlife".

The changes proposed Thursday by the administration "make a lot of sense" to Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, who said they would "reduce some of the red tape that prevents productive uses of the land in the West while at the same time protecting endangered and threatened species".

The Trump administration alleged that the current terminology which guarantees endangered and threatened species protection for the "foreseeable future" is too broad and should be limited.

Hailey Hawkins, the Southern Rockies field representative for the Endangered Species Coalition, called the proposal a "full-on assault on the American people's wildlife" and part of the Trump administration's "industry and polluter-friendly agenda".

The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service yesterday (July 19) jointly proposed a suite of changes to how the Endangered Species Act is implemented.

Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, does not agree.

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Under one proposal, the FWS would decide on a species-by-species basis what, if any, ESA prohibitions would apply to each species listed as threatened.

The change would create species-specific rules with tailored protections, according to a government press release. Congress envisioned that the FWS would decide individually what prohibitions applied to each particular threatened species.

The FWS's proposal would ensure that, moving forward, all threatened species receive the level of protection that is appropriate for each species. Endangered species are now defined as "in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range", while threatened species are likely to become in danger of extinction within the "foreseeable future".

"Although some conservationists might characterize the entire rulemaking as simply another Trump administration effort to undercut conservation, we think that a closer look will reveal both advantages and concerns from a conservation perspective", said Li.

One proposed change, announced by the Interior and Commerce Departments, would remove a sentence that aims to separate economic impacts from decisions about animal protection. Now some areas are considered a habitat important for recovery even if they are not occupied by a threatened species. The change would designate unoccupied areas as critical habitats only if the inhabited area is insufficient.

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