Endangered species rule changed, angering environmental group

Endangered species rule changed, angering environmental group

The Obama administration is changing the process for petitioning the government to protect an endangered or threatened animal.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries finalized a rule Monday that changes the process by which species are petitioned for listing, delisting or reclassification under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

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Under the rule, first proposed in May 2015, petitioners will be required to notify each state wildlife agency where a species is located at least 30 days before submitting a petition to the federal government. The delay will gives states an opportunity to provide agencies with pertinent information on the species.

The new rule also restricts the number of species that can be petitioned for at one time. Under the rule, only one species is allowed per petition. 

The agencies say the changes will allow them to better leverage limited resources and more effectively conserve America’s imperiled wildlife. 

The Center for Biological Diversity was quick to slam the rule, calling it an “impediment" to using the Endangered Species Act.

“These new restrictions on citizen petitions are nothing more than a gift to industries and right-wing states that are hostile to endangered species,” Brett Hartl, the group’s director of endangered species policy, said in a statement.

“These rules make it harder to get imperiled species the Endangered Species Act protections they desperately need and they do nothing to address the backlog of hundreds of imperiled species that are still waiting to get the protections they deserve.”

Hartl argued further delays in a process that already takes too long will increase the risk of extinction for many animals.

“The filing of a petition triggers what is supposed to be a two-year process that includes three public-comment periods,” he said. 

“Unfortunately the Fish and Wildlife Service routinely violates this legal requirement, often taking more than a decade to complete the process. Delays in protection of species have had significant consequences, with more than 40 species having gone extinct while waiting for protection.”

In a statement, Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopWestern lawmakers introduce bills to amend Endangered Species Act New emails reveal Pruitt exempted Utah oil companies from smog rules Making Puerto Rico a state by 2021 MORE (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the administration is acknowledging with its rule that the ESA is broken.

"These revisions give the appearance that state input will improve and that closed-door settlements will no longer drive petition and listing decisions," he said.

"Unfortunately, serial environmental litigation will continue to drive ESA policy, and there is nothing the agencies can do about it unless we reform the underlying statute."

The rule will take effect in 30 days.

—This story was updated at 2:41 p.m.