Trump administration plan strips Endangered Species Act of key provisions

The Endangered Species Act is credited with saving dozens of key species from extinction including bald eagles

The Fish and Wildlife Service is separately proposing to rescind its blanket rule which automatically conveyed the same protections for threatened species as for endangered species unless otherwise specified.

The Department of Interior announced Thursday controversial plans to roll back core provisions of the Endangered Species Act in what it describes as a bid to improve regulatory efficiency and reduce the burdens of such safeguards on landowners, industry and governments.

WorldWildLife.org has created a list of animal species, organized by conservation status.

Wildlife advocates and Democrats are anxious the proposed changes would accelerate extinction rates.

"Senator Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said he would fight the proposals because the Endangered Species Act is "one of our country's most popular and successful" environmental protection laws".

"These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife", Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. A second set of changes would curtail the designation of critical habitat and weaken the listing process for imperiled species.

"This is not all good or all bad", he said. Specifically, Section 4 (d) directs the agencies that implement the act - the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - to issue regulations to protect threatened species from actions that injure or kill them. Hundreds more are under consideration for protections.

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Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have been strong advocates for oil and gas drilling and other types of development, frequently criticizing environmental policies they say hinder economic activity. Even though most endangered species now occupy small fractions of their historic range, those areas would effectively be precluded from ever helping a species recover. Zinke also has sought to portray himself as a conservationist in the vein of President Teddy Roosevelt who will protect the nation's natural resources.

The Endangered Species Act passed Congress in 1973 with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.

One of the chief architects of that effort, U.S. Sen.

The changes are in keeping with a broader pattern of regulatory moves in the Trump administration aimed at reducing cost and other burdens for businesses, particularly the energy business.

"The administration is limited by an existing law that needs to be updated", Barrasso said.

The proposed changes also include evaluating a species' critical habitat initially only in places where it now lives, rather than including areas where it could be expected to live if its population recovered.

Conservationists who anxious about the changes, expected for months, said their fears were realized.

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