Feds change endangered species law rules despite GOP protest

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The National Marine Fisheries Service, which protects endangered species in the sea, already publishes its economic analysis along with proposed rules.

The agencies designate critical habitat to protect animals and plants that have been declared endangered or threatened. The designation imposes special restrictions on the federal government if it attempts to develop or fund projects in the region.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, federal projects in critical habitat areas usually proceed but may be modified to mitigate their impact.

In a statement, wildlife service Director Dan Ashe called the new rules “common-sense changes” to the agency’s functioning.

He added that they will “improve the process by making our economic analysis available to the public sooner, while continuing our commitment to provide the best protections for our nation’s threatened and endangered species.”

Republicans allege that the new measure allows for agencies to use a less thorough economic analysis that won’t take into account costs associated with adding the animal or plant to the Endangered Species List.

“Designating critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act creates massive financial burdens for private property owners and state and local governments,” Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said in a statement on Monday. “It’s disturbing to see the Obama administration ignore the call of Congress and the American people for more transparency and accountability with its most recent proposal.”

Vitter, who is the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, added that the change “is another example of this administration moving forward with a dangerous precedent to ignore economic impacts when implementing expensive rules and regulations. They are pulling wool over our eyes and hoping we won’t notice.”

He and 22 other Senate Republicans have previously sent letters asking the Interior Department to halt the rule.