Thousands of scientists joined on Monday to accuse the Trump administration of trying to erode the Endangered Species Act in favor of commercial interests with a plan to revamp regulations that have formed a bedrock of U.S. wildlife protection for over 40 years.
The extraordinary critique of the administration’s proposal, which was unveiled in July, came in an open letter addressed to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from three associations representing 9,000 professional biologists.
A separate letter similarly condemning revisions proposed to endangered species policies was signed by 273 leading university scientists from around the country.
Both came as the 60-day public comment period drew to a close for what would be the most sweeping overhaul in decades of the rules implementing the landmark environmental law.
The 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) currently protects more than 1,600 species of U.S. animals and plants listed as either endangered – on the brink of extinction – or threatened – deemed likely to become extinct in the foreseeable future.
The ESA is credited with a number of high-profile success stories, including the comeback of the American bald eagle, the California condor and the grizzly bear.
But the act has long been controversial for requiring the government to designate “critical habitat” deemed essential to a listed species’ survival and limiting commercial activities there, such as construction, mining, energy development or logging.
Developers and other critics argue that such restrictions pose an unfair and overly burdensome intrusion on property rights and economic activity.
Under the administration’s proposal, the government would end the practice of automatically treating endangered species and threatened species essentially the same.
The plan also calls for initially evaluating a species’ critical habitat on the basis of its current range, rather than according to the larger area it could be expected to occupy once recovered.
The administration has argued its proposal would enhance wildlife protection by building greater support for a statute that has become outdated and by streamlining the regulatory process.
Scientists, however, said the planned revisions would undermine the ESA and drive some wildlife closer to extinction. One proposed change, they said, to allow consideration of economic factors when assessing a species’ status, would violate the law’s requirement that safeguards hinge solely on science.
“This is completely disastrous for efforts to save species from extinction,” said Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecology professor at Duke University.
A spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Brian Hires, said the agency encourages “input on our proposed ESA regulatory changes from all stakeholders as part of a robust and transparent public process.”
Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Pinedale, Wyoming; Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler
UAW strike ‘threatens to upend the economy in Michigan’ — and could destroy Trump’s re-election: report
At the end of the first week of a major strike by the United Auto Workers, the employment standoff threatens to upend President Donald Trump's 2020 re-election map, the Chicago Times reported Saturday.
Approximately 46,000 workers have been striking against General Motors.
There are two major threats to Trump's campaign from the strike.
The first is that the strike could cause regional recessions -- threatening Trump's political standing in key Rust Belt states.
Security forces fired live rounds at protesters calling for the ouster of Egyptian president: report
Egyptian security forces clashed with hundreds of anti-government protesters in the port city of Suez on Saturday, firing tear gas and live rounds, said several residents who participated in the demonstrations.
A heavy security presence was also maintained in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Egypt's 2011 revolution, after protests in several cities called for the removal of general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Such demonstrations are rare after Egypt effectively banned protests under a law passed following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist ex-president Mohamed Morsi.
‘They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!’: Trump freaks out about other people acting nuts
After a disastrous week dominated by news about the whistleblower alleging President Donald Trump committed misconduct in office, President Donald Trump lashed out at the media for covering his scandals.
In Trump's mind, however, it was the media who "had a very bad week" as he repeated his call that journalists are "The Enemy of the People!"
Trump, who has almost 65 million followers on Twitter, claimed without evidence that the press doesn't check facts, makes up facts and even make up sources.
Trump then claimed it is the media who have gone "totally crazy" he argued, with "crazy" in all capital letters and followed by four exclamation points.