On August 12th 2019, the Trump administration announced sweeping rule changes to the Endangered Species Act, considerably weakening the landmark conservation legislation. The new regulations, currently set to take effect in mid-September, would:
make it easier to remove a species from the endangered list while diminishing protections for threatened species (one step below the endangered classification),
allow regulators to conduct economic assessments when deciding whether a species warrants protection, such as estimating revenue lost from prohibiting mineral extraction on crucial habitat, and
make it more difficult to factor in the effects of climate change on wildlife
Interior Secretary and former energy lobbyist David Bernhardt has said the changes would bring ‘transparency’ to the Endangered Species Act, however it is clear the new rules have been established to pave the way for new mining, drilling, and development in protected habitats.
Fortunately, Congress has the ability to undo this misguided action through the Congressional Review Act (CRA) which allows Congress to reverse regulatory actions within 60 legislative days of their enactment with a simple majority vote in both chambers. Congress must act quickly to reverse the administration’s decision and preserve the Endangered Species Act.