POLITICS

Interior Department Aims to Slice Section From Endangered Species Act

A new proposal appears to cut protections for threatened animals.

The Trump administration is proposing rolling back protections for close to 300 threatened animal and plant species.

A new proposal — “Removal of Blanket Section 4(d) Rule” — was posted Monday by the Department of the Interior on a government database and was spotted by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental nonprofit.

The proposal’s title refers to a measure in the Endangered Species Act that extends protections to hundreds of threatened plant and animal species. 

An endangered species is in danger of extinction, while a threatened species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Threatened species include such animals as manatees, sea otters, the Guadalupe fur seal, wood bison, the gray wolf, the grizzly and polar bear, the northern spotted owl and other species of birds, snakes, corals and lizards, among others.

Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity said the proposed rule change is an attempt to ease restrictions for companies that operate in wildlife habitats. 

“Trump is erasing America’s natural heritage to make his friends richer and allow polluters to ravage our environment,” Greenwald said in a statement. “If these critical protections for threatened species are eliminated, Trump will go down in history as the extinction president.”

Details of the specific proposal haven’t been publicly released. U.S. Wildlife Fish and Game spokesman Gavin Shire told CNN that the proposal is a “draft” currently under “internal review,” and that it would be “premature” to discuss it.

Shire told Courthouse News Service that public input will be invited once a detailed proposal is formalized.

The Interior Department’s move to eliminate the rule comes after two petitions to rescind it were filed by the libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation. 

Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke last week tapped Susan Combs — a rancher and fierce opponent of the Endangered Species Act with strong ties to the oil industry — to serve as acting secretary for fish, wildlife and parks. 

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