The first formal lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s unforgivable move to weaken the Endangered Species Act is here.
The Trump administration finalized a proposal to make some key changes to the law last week. These changes include removing the “blanket section 4(d) rule” from the Endangered Species Act, which allowed threatened species to receive proper protection to prevent them from becoming endangered. Without that section rule, threatened species may lose legal protections and edge closer to extinction. His administration’s changes to the law also factor in the economic impacts of listing a species under the act, which may allow industry to have a say in whether certain species should be protected.
That led groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, and Humane Society of the United States, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday suing the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service in the District Court for the Northern District of California. They are alleging that the Trump administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to analyze the environmental impacts of these rule changes. They’re also suing on the basis that there’s potential for these changes to put more species at risk, which violates the Endangered Species Act itself. The administration also made some changes in the final rules that weren’t included in the proposal last year, including redefining what consequences wildlife agencies would consider when analyzing whether to list a species as endangered or threatened. The public never had a chance to comment on these new additions.
“Nothing in these regulations further enhance species protection,” Kristen Boyles, an attorney at Earthjustice, which is leading to litigation, told Earther. “[The changes] all go in the other direction, so they’re significant changes to the way the act actually gets implemented on the ground, and that’s why we’re suing about it.”
State attorneys general announced immediately following the rule changes that they’d sue too, but that lawsuit has yet to hit the court system. Even this lawsuit isn’t finished yet. Plaintiffs plan to file additional claims after 60 days around the legality of the new rule’s consideration of economic impacts.
The Endangered Species Act is an important pillar of conservation in the U.S. It’s saved nearly 300 species from extinction, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. In a time when climate change and other human activities are threatening up to 1 million species globally, our wildlife will need all the protection they can get.