Plants, Animals Could Lose Protections

Los Angeles Times
Published: 7/19/2018 11:54:56 PM
Modified: 7/19/2018 11:55:09 PM

The Department of Interior announced on 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.

Under consideration is a proposal to rescind U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policies that automatically extend habitat protections granted to endangered species to threatened species as well. Instead, Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the agency wants to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to protect habitats of threatened species — animals and plants that scientists believe could soon become endangered.

Going forward, the Department of Interior plans to work with the Commerce Department to jointly determine issues, including whether land currently unoccupied by a threatened species deserves to be classified as a critical habitat — meaning one that deserves protection.

Bernhardt said the proposals were developed in response to President Donald Trump’s order a year ago directing federal agencies, including the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to revise regulations that were confusing and that discourage public participation in conservation efforts.

“We hope these proposals ameliorate some of the burdens, conflict and uncertainty within our current regulatory structure,” Bernhardt said. “A goal is to increase public buy-in so that people don’t see it in such an adversarial light.”

The proposal would not affect species already listed as threatened — or critical habitats set aside for them — such as Western desert tortoises struggling to survive in the Southern California desert as temperatures rise and nutritious foliage diminishes. The Department of Interior could implement them after a 60-day public commentary period beginning on Thursday.

Environmental organizations and their supporters in Congress were outraged by the proposed changes, which they said favor industry. Critics said they would doom hundreds of imperiled animals and plants and undermine the Endangered Species Act of 1973, one of the most popular — and heavily litigated — environmental laws ever enacted.

“If a single company can make a single dollar from the destruction or displacement of endangered species — it’s full speed ahead,” Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said. “This is part of the endless special favors the White House and Department of Interior are willing to do for their industry friends.”

The Endangered Species Act, which protects more than 1,250 species, is based on three key elements: listing species as threatened or endangered; designating habitat essential for the species’ survival; and recovering populations so they can be removed from the list. Environmentalists point to species including grizzly bears and red-legged frogs, which have rebounded since the law’s passage.

Bernhardt’s proposals modify key terms originally intended to strike balanced solutions for government agencies, landowners and environmentalists to protect and restore endangered species and the natural resources they need to complete their life cycles.

The changes are needed, Bernhardt said, because “the public’s experience has evolved over the years.”

Communities are better now at addressing their own ecological issues, he said. The framework of the law, he said, has not evolved with them.

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy