Trump administration announces changes to Endangered Species Act rules

Enlarge / Bald eages are another success story for the ESA; they came off the threatened list in 2007, half a century after the US nearly lost its national bird to hunting, habitat loss, and the pesticide DDT, which made their eggshells too thin to survive incubation. (credit: By Andy Morffew, CC BY 2.0,

After two years of review and revision, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a set of changes to the regulations that spell out how it will implement parts of the Endangered Species Act. The changes focus on how officials should decide whether to list a species as endangered or threatened, what kind of protections threatened species should receive, and how officials will decide which areas of habitat to protect.

In practice, the changes may weaken the Endangered Species Act’s protections. Depending on how this and future administrations interpret the wording of the regulation, these changes could make it easier to remove species from the endangered and threatened species lists. The wording may also give officials tacit permission to dismiss climate change as an irrelevant threat to species’ survival and to consider economic factors when they’re deciding whether to protect a species.

There were many signs this was coming. The Trump administration proposed some of the revisions, including removing the phrase “without reference to economic impact,” last July. And overall, this batch of regulatory changes fits into the administration’s broader theme of eliminating regulation and rolling back environmental protections.

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