Last week, the Trump administration fired its latest salvo in an ongoing war on wildlife by finalizing regulations that significantly weaken the Endangered Species Act. Today, a group of environmental and animal protection groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, filed a lawsuit challenging these changes, and putting the administration on notice that we will not stand by and let them erode much-needed protections for the world’s most precious wildlife.
The package of regulatory changes passed last week weakens core provisions of the Endangered Species Act, making it harder to grant and maintain protections for species facing extinction around the globe, including animals in dire need of the act’s protections like giraffes. The new rules strip newly listed threatened species of vital safeguards, weaken protection of critical habitat, and make it easier for federal agencies to ignore the impact of government actions on listed species. They also direct regulators to assess economic impacts when making decisions about whether species should be listed, tipping the scales against animals who happen to live in areas targeted by business operations like mining, oil drilling or development.
This short-sighted and profit-driven decision is not supported by a majority of Americans, and 800,000 people spoke out in opposition to these changes when they were first proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year.
Our complaint filed today argues that the new rules violate federal law in three key ways: first, they were rushed through without proper disclosure and analysis of their damaging environmental impacts. Second, they contain new provisions that were snuck into the final versions of the rules, denying the public their right to evaluate the full scope of the regulatory changes. And third, they betray the letter and the intent of the Endangered Species Act, which the Supreme Court famously hailed as “the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species ever enacted by any nation.”
The only purpose they do serve is to make it even easier for private industry to accumulate profits at the expense of America’s wildlife. Weakening the only bulwark that stands between imperiled species and extinction would be unacceptable at any time, but is especially shortsighted in the midst of a global climate crisis that threatens species at an unprecedented rate.
Our government should not be in the business of watching out for the interests of a few while neglecting the wishes of a majority. With our response today, we are letting the administration know that we will push back on this deregulatory frenzy using all the tools we have at our disposal. We will fight these changes in legislatures, agencies and the courts to ensure that our most endangered animals do not disappear from earth because of the greed of a few.