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Politics Endangered Species rollback faced early pushback within administration, emails show

13:46  13 january  2021
13:46  13 january  2021 Source:   thehill.com

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Email . Trump admin overhauls Endangered Species Act. The Trump administration finalized changes that overhaul significant parts of the Endangered Species Act, and At least 10 attorneys general joined conservation groups in protesting an early draft of the changes, saying they put more

The history of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) includes its passage in 1973 and its amendments. Before the Endangered Species Act, Congress enacted legislation to promote conservation and to regulate human activity around fish and wildlife, beginning with animals on federal land.

The U.S. agency responsible for marine fisheries considered pulling out of a recent Trump administration rollback of the Endangered Species Act over a disagreement with political appointees at the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), according to emails obtained by The Hill.

a small boat in a body of water with a mountain in the background: Endangered Species rollback faced early pushback within administration, emails show © iStock Endangered Species rollback faced early pushback within administration, emails show

The emails from a Freedom of Information Act request show that during last year's rulemaking process, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) considered withdrawing its support for a joint rule with FWS that makes it harder for areas to receive critical habitat protections.

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For more information about endangered species , visit endangered .fws.gov and join our activist network to receive updates and action alerts. 10. Protect wildlife habitat. Perhaps the greatest threat that faces many species is the widespread destruction of habitat. Scientists tell us the best way to

The Endangered Species Act is administered by two federal agencies: the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for marine species , and the Fish and Riders, such as the sage grouse rider, are unnecessary and unrelated amendments within must-pass legislation in an attempt to push forward

The emails, though heavily redacted, reveal that Marine Fisheries officials were concerned with the "course" chosen by Trump officials at FWS in pursuing the rollback.

NMFS, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), appeared ready to back out in April.

"We appear to be at a fork in the road," FWS assistant director for ecological services Gary Frazer wrote to agency director Aurelia Skipwith.

The next paragraph in the email was redacted, but Frazer added that NMFS and NOAA would "stay on board" if FWS was open to working through White House Office of Management and Budget comments and "willing to consider substantive changes to the draft."

A day later, Frazer wrote to FWS colleagues that he "heard back from the director" and that "she and the rest of the political team understand that this course may cause NMFS and NOAA to withdraw from this rulemaking."

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The Cape Sable seaside sparrow, another endangered species located mostly now in Florida, was found to be in jeopardy as a result of drifting sprays of chlorpyrifos. Agency records show repeated contacts in early 2017 by the pesticide industry with administration officials.

“Critically endangered ” refers to a species that species facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. “Threatened” species fall into one of those three categories. “Extinct” describes the unfortunate fact of a once-existent species not having any living members that remain.

Spokespeople for NMFS and FWS, which is part of the Interior Department, declined to provide specifics on what caused the dispute.

Critics say the emails indicate that efforts by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to roll back the Endangered Species Act (ESA) have encountered pushback, even within the administration.

"Interior under Dave Bernhardt is just gunning to gut the ESA, and the fact that clearly they were proposing things that were a bridge too far even for the Trump NOAA and National Fisheries Service is pretty telling," said David Henkin, an attorney with Earthjustice.

The emails showed that FWS officials even started making contingency plans in case they lost support from NMFS.

Frazer told agency officials to get information about whether "converting this to a FWS-only rule" will impact its location in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Ultimately, both agencies jointly issued the habitat definition rule. It was finalized last month.

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The Trump administration is moving to restrict the release of information about its decisions on endangered species , according to a confidential internal document obtained by the Guardian. The center obtained emails and other records that, it says, helped show that the government did not

Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a species may be listed as either threatened or endangered depending on their risk for extinction. The ESA provides for the conservation of species that are endangered or threatened. There are approximately 2,150 total species listed under the ESA.

Spokespeople for both agencies declined to say how a resolution was reached or if any changes were made to the rule, which narrows the definition of a habitat under the ESA.

In order for an area to be classified as a critical habitat for endangered species and receive protections under the ESA, it must first be classified as a habitat.

The new rule, which was first proposed over the summer, says a habitat must be an area that can currently support species.

Environmentalists argue the revised definition ignores factors that could alter landscapes, including climate change, and the government needs to be able to protect land that could support species in the future.

Supporters of the change have argued that the previous rule was too burdensome on farmers and other industries.

An FWS spokesperson said the rule "importantly brings the ESA into the 21st century by more effectively balancing science-based conservation with common-sense policymaking."

Shortly after issuing the rule, FWS alone issued a related one that further excluded certain areas from habitat protections under the ESA.

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That rule said FWS can exclude an area from critical habitat protections if an analysis determined there are more benefits to taking no protective action.

Those analyses could prove beneficial to companies who want to use the land for other purposes, and opponents argued that the evidence they can consider could tip the scale in favor of industry.

FWS spokespeople would not say why that rule was issued separately by the agency.

Environmentalists say it's unusual that the second rule does not also apply to NMFS-designated habitats.

"I don't know of any substantive, material conservation-related reason why...exclusions would apply differently" said Jacob Malcom, director of Defenders of Wildlife's Center for Conservation Innovation.

Malcom added that he believes the habitat rulemaking is part of a larger pattern of putting politics over science in the Trump administration.

"I don't think that it matters what the domain is, whether it's endangered species or climate or clean water or clean air where they haven't done everything they can to remove science from the process," he said.

Spotted and oddly striped zebras may be a warning for species’ future .
Animals with abnormal coat patterns may be inbred, “dramatic evidence” of how habitat fragmentation can harm wildlife, a new study says.A plains zebra with a spot interrupting its stripes pauses in Rwanda's Akagera National Park in 2018.

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