Trump administration overhauls Endangered Species Act in bid to reduce red tape

A bald eagle is seen along the American Trail at the Smithsonian National Zoo Aug. 11 2016 in Washington D.C

A bald eagle is seen along the American Trail at the Smithsonian National Zoo Aug. 11 2016 in Washington D.C

The changes include removing a rule that automatically conveys the same protections to threatened species and endangered species, and striking language that says economic considerations should play no part in making determinations on how wildlife is listed.

The Trump administration is finalizing a devastating rollback that will gut the Endangered Species Act.

The Endangered Species Act now protects more than 1,600 species in the United States and its territories.

The move should not come as a surprise, since Interior Secretary David Bernhardt wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the Endangered Species Act (which is credited with saving bald eagles, grizzly bears, wolves, California condors, and peregrine falcons) is nothing more than an "unnecessary regulatory burden" on companies.

The Sierra Club said in a statement that the administration's far-reaching rule changes, which the group dubbed Trump's "extinction plan", will accelerate that alarming trend. Two states - California and MA, frequent foes of President Donald Trump's environmental rollbacks - promised lawsuits to try to block the changes in the law.

The changes included allowing economic cost to taken into account as the federal government weighs protecting a struggling species, although Congress has stipulated that economic costs not be a factor in deciding whether to protect an animal.

"The revisions finalized with this rulemaking fit squarely within the president's mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public, without sacrificing our species' protection and recovery goals", said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Many western state lawmakers praised the move by the Trump administration.

Gary Frazer, assistant director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, told reporters that cost of care will be disclosed to the public, and will not violate Congress' stipulation that economic costs not be weighed.

Several conservation groups also have promised court fights.

"The Trump administration's decision to finalize these risky rollbacks comes at a time when threatened and endangered species are facing increasing pressure from global forces like climate change, drought, desertification, deforestation, ocean acidification and the rapid destruction of critical habitats", Hayes said.

"The regulations" take a wrecking ball to one of our oldest and most effective environmental laws, the Endangered Species Act", Sen.

"They're trying to narrow the evidence we can consider and narrow the scope of time we're going to be projecting the impact on these species ... limit the forward-looking data", like climate models, Riley said. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said in a statement.

At least 10 attorneys general joined conservation groups in protesting an early draft of the changes, saying they put more wildlife at greater risk of extinction.

"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. "We'll fight the Trump administration in court to block this rewrite, which only serves the oil industry and other polluters who see endangered species as pesky inconveniences".

A United Nations report warned in May that more than 1 million plants and animals globally face extinction, some within decades, owing to human influence, climate change and other threats.

As the New York Times reported, the Trump administration's rollbacks will "very likely clear the way for new mining, oil and gas drilling, and development in areas where protected species live".