Zinke looks to ease some wildlife rules

Zinke looks to ease some wildlife rules
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeEnergy development will likely land one bird on the Endangered Species list Montana lawmakers cheer recommendation to ban mining north of Yellowstone Overnight Energy: Navajo coal plant to close | NC dam breach raises pollution fears | House panel to examine endangered species bills MORE wants federal fish and wildlife managers to better align their policies with state rules.

In a memo Monday to officials in the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and other agencies involved in wildlife management, Zinke asked staff to find instances where policies for wildlife on federal land are more restrictive than rules for the states they’re in, and to construct plans to ease those policies and better align them.

“The effective stewardship of fish and wildlife requires the cooperation of the various states and the federal government,” Zinke wrote in the memo, which the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) released.

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“The states’ fundamental responsibility for fish and wildlife management includes responsibility for appropriate regulation of public use and enjoyment of fish and wildlife species,” he said.

“The department recognizes states as the first-line authorities for fish and wildlife management and hereby expresses its commitment to defer to the states in this regard except as otherwise required by federal law.”

PEER, which has often clashed with Zinke and other Trump administration officials, blasted the memo, saying it will lead to a massive rollback of wildlife protections.

“This across-the-board abandonment of federal fish and wildlife safeguards is rooted in an ideological stance unsupported by any factual analysis,” Jeff Ruch, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “Federal parks, preserves, and refuges have a mission to protect biodiversity and should not be reduced to game farms.”

The memo is just the latest in a string of wildlife-related policies from the Trump administration that conservationists say seriously weaken protections.

The administration in July proposed a handful of changes to how it enforces the Endangered Species Act, including making it easier to remove species’ protections and harder to protect habitat.

In December, Interior published a legal finding saying that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act does not prohibit “incidental” harms or killing of the birds under its jurisdiction.