Endangered species threatened by new rule, lawsuit charges

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A coalition of environmental groups are taking the Trump administration to court over changes they say will weaken the Endangered Species Act.

The administration’s rule — which updates regulations around the law credited with saving the bald eagle and grizzly bear from extinction — “undermines the fundamental purpose” of the law, the groups allege in federal court documents filed in California on Wednesday.

They also accuse the administration of withholding from public view “the significant environmental impacts from these regulations.”

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross have said the rule change was initiated to make “them more efficient and effective.”

“The new regulations recognize that the ESA’s ultimate goal is species recovery and that goal is best advanced by tailoring appropriate protections to particular species’ biological needs, based on the best available science,” they wrote in a recent CNN.com opinion piece. “With this goal in mind, resources can be used more efficiently and financial support can go to where it will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation.”

The overhaul changes how the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration consider whether species qualify for protections, as well as how the agencies determine what habitats deserve special protections. It could significantly lengthen how long it takes for species to become protected, which could further endanger them, but the Trump administration says it allows the focus to be on the “rarest species.”

Nick Goodwin, a spokesman for the Interior Department, said: “It is unsurprising that those who have repeatedly attempted to weaponize the Endangered Species Act — instead of use it as a means to recover imperiled species — would choose to sue.”

The lawsuit is brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Humane Society of the United States, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians.