- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Leads Coalition of Ten Attorneys General in Opposing Trump Administration’s Plan to Gut Endangered Species Protections
Boston — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a coalition of ten attorneys general in calling on U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to abandon three proposed rules put forward by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that would effectively dismantle many of the Endangered Species Act’s key protections for at-risk wildlife and their habitats.
“These proposed rules put rare plants and animals at greater risk of extinction, imperiling natural habitats and local tourism economies across the country,” AG Healey said. “We urge the Administration to withdraw these misguided proposals.”
In comments submitted today, the attorneys general highlight that the federal Endangered Species Act has allowed the states to make significant strides in preventing extinctions and promoting species recovery, such as the bald eagle. In Massachusetts, cooperative state and federal action under the federal Endangered Species Act has been particularly successful in bringing the piping plover back from the brink of extinction. If enacted, the three rules proposed in July would significantly hinder these types of recovery efforts.
The attorneys general argue that the Administration’s proposals violate the purpose of the Act and would allow FWS, NMFS, and other federal agencies to ignore serious threats to imperiled animals and plants, including climate change. Among other things, the attorneys general contend that:
- By allowing the agencies to evaluate economic impacts when deciding if a species is endangered or threatened, one proposed rule would put more wildlife at risk, contrary to Congress’ expressed intent when enacting the Endangered Species Act. The proposed rule also limits the circumstances when a species can be listed as threatened and does away with a requirement that FWS and NMFS consider the ability of a species to recover before removing it from the endangered or threatened lists.
- Another proposed rollback essentially dismantles the ESA’s core requirement that federal agencies consult with FWS and NMFS to ensure that federal actions do not pose a threat to protected species, decreasing the frequency of such consultations and diminishing their value.
- An additional proposed rule eliminates, going forward, the longstanding prohibition against killing or harming species that are listed as threatened, allowing at-risk species to slide even closer to extinction.
- FWS and NMFS failed to consider the significant environmental impacts of their proposed rules as required by the National Environmental Policy Act when drafting them.
The attorneys general argue that the three proposed rules together would deeply undermine the Endangered Species Act’s protections for imperiled wildlife while allowing the federal government to ignore or discount the profound threats that climate change poses to species and our natural heritage.
Joining AG Healey and AG Becerra in filing the comments are the attorneys general of Maryland, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Matthew Ireland, Turner Smith, and Amanda Morejon, all of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division.