The Trump administration has announced new changes for the Endangered Species Act that environmentalists say will significantly weaken protections for some of the most imperiled species of plants and wildlife.
"The Administration ignored the hundreds of thousands of objections from scientists, wildlife experts and the American people who overwhelmingly support the Endangered Species Act", Rebecca Riley, legal director for the Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in the statement.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the changes "fit squarely within the president's mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public without sacrificing our species' protection and recovery goals".
The Trump administration has made several rule changes to the Endangered Species Act that they say will provide transparency while protecting species.
Additionally, the new rules allow for agencies to highlight the economic impacts of protecting a species and change the process for how they designate habitat deemed "critical" for a species' long-term survival.
"Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services sounded the alarm that up to 1 million species may be threatened with extinction in coming years if we don't take action", wrote Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement. "We'll see the Trump administration in court about it", Drew Caputo, a vice president of litigation for the conservation advocacy group Earthjustice.
"We must modernize the Endangered Species Act in a way that empowers states, promotes the recovery of species, and allows local economies to thrive", Barrasso said. Trump has often touted the administration's work in gutting regulations.
As many as 1 million species are at risk of extinction - many within decades - according to a recent United Nations report.
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Gary Frazer, an assistant director at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told reporters that the government would adhere to that stipulation by disclosing the costs to the public without it being a factor for the officials as they consider the protections.
Conservation groups say numerous changes are illegal and put species further at risk. Prior to joining the Service a year ago, one of Everson's last duties as a private consultant was speaking at a legal education course sponsored by Safari Club International, a pro-hunting organization with a record of fights against the Endangered Species Act.
"The ESA directs that determinations to add or remove a species from the lists of threatened or endangered species be based exclusively on the best available scientific and commercial information, and these will remain the only criteria on which listing determinations will be based", Bernhardt said. "It's going to be hard to get animals that dramatically need protection the protection they deserve".
"There were some tears shed", Entz said, of the moment when tribal officials realized the animal had dwindled in the wild past the point of saving.
Disregarding more than 800,000 public comments opposing its proposal to weaken implementation of the ESA, the Department of the Interior's new regulations will eliminate key protections for threatened species, weaken bedrock consultation requirements, open the door to burdensome and inappropriate cost-benefit analyses that risk politicizing the ESA's science-based listing process, and much more.
"Any time you open the door to economics you're, in my experience, opening up a Pandora's box", said Hatfield.
The groups says that lifting the regulations will help "encourage states and landowners to recover [threatened species] before they reach endangered status".