The US Interior Department announced significant changes Monday that would weaken how the Endangered Species Act is implemented, a move critics fear will allow for more oil and gas drilling and limit how much regulators consider the impacts of the climate crisis.
The new regulations change 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 which habitats deserve special protections.
The overhaul could significantly lengthen how long it takes for a species to become protected, which could further endanger them, but the Trump administration says it allows the focus to be on the “rarest species.”
“The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal — recovery of our rarest species,” Interior Secretary David Bernhard said in a statement Monday. “An effectively administered Act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation.”
The final rule was panned by environmental groups for weakening protections, and is certain to be challenged in court.
“This effort to gut protections for endangered and threatened species has the same two features of most Trump administration actions: it’s a gift to industry, and it’s illegal. We’ll see the Trump administration in court about it,” Drew Caputo, Earthjustice vice president of litigation for lands, wildlife, and oceans said in a statement.
This story is breaking and will be updated.