Fish and Wildlife, NOAA propose ESA regs | TSLN.com

Fish and Wildlife, NOAA propose ESA regs

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service today proposed revisions to regulations that implement portions of the Endangered Species Act.

Fish and Wildlife is a division of the Interior Department and NOAA is a division of the Commerce Department.

The Endangered Species Act defines a threatened species as one that is likely to become in danger of extinction within the "foreseeable future."

For the first time, the agencies are proposing an interpretation of "foreseeable future" to make it clear that it extends only as far as they can reasonably determine that both the future threats and the species' responses to those threats are probable.

“The three proposed rules from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service would severely weaken protections for hundreds of endangered animals and plants across the country.” Center for Biological Diversity

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The agencies are also clarifying that decisions to delist a species are made using the same standard as decisions to list species. In both cases, that standard is whether a species meets the established definition of an endangered species or threatened species.

The proposed rules will be published in the Federal Register and subject to comment.

Ethan Lane, executive director of the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association Federal Lands, said "We are pleased to see the administration taking such a serious and measured approach to modernizing the regulatory side of the Endangered Species Act."

"While we are still reviewing the details of these proposed rules, they are focused on some of the most impactful areas of current ESA implementation and could consequently provide tremendous relief to ranchers once finalized. We look forward to working with [Interior] Secretary [Ryan] Zinke and his team on this effort."

The Center for Biological Diversity called the rules "a massive attack on imperiled wildlife."

"The three proposed rules from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service would severely weaken protections for hundreds of endangered animals and plants across the country," the center said.

"They would also ensure that hundreds of imperiled species awaiting protection — like the monarch butterfly and the American wolverine — either never get safeguards or face additional, extinction-threatening delays.

"One set of regulatory changes would weaken the consultation process designed to prevent harm to endangered animals and their habitats from federal agency activities. A second set of changes would curtail the designation of critical habitat and weaken the listing process for imperiled species. A third regulation would gut nearly all protections for wildlife newly designated as 'threatened' under the act."

The proposals are part of a broader effort by Zinke to undercut protections for wildlife and public lands, the center said.

"These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife," said Brett Hartl, the center's government affairs director.

"If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the gray whale would be extinct today. If they're finalized now, Zinke will go down in history as the extinction secretary."

–The Hagstrom Report