Tuesday, March 07, 2017

States Attack U.S. Endangered Species Act Rules

More than a dozen state attorneys general are asking Pres. Donald Trump to throw out recent federal rules regulating the environment for endangered or threatened plants and animals. The states claim the rules, which enlarge the definition of species habitat, give the federal government excessive power over state and private lands. The rules govern implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and were made a year ago by Pres. Barack Obama’s administration. In January the state officials sent a letter to the Trump transition team asking for repeal, arguing the rules will cost states and private land owners billions of dollars by blocking or delaying the use or development of their properties. “It’s such a massive land grab by the federal government,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says. But at least one study shows implementation of the ESA has affected very few development projects during the current decade. Rutledge, along with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (who has since been appointed to the U.S. Senate) spearheaded the letter. Their states and others also filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama in November challenging the new rules. Those rules state, essentially, that agencies determining areas critical to the survival of an endangered species should consider two types of land: One is land currently occupied by that species; the other comprises nearby but unoccupied areas that contain resources, like food or shelter, critical to the species’s survival, or could become so if the species shifts its range. The attorneys general want the rules rolled back to language used since 1984. At that time, they claim, the rules stipulated that after listing a species as endangered or threatened, federal agencies designate critical habitat only in areas where the species is found at that moment. The attorneys say the rollback would protect private property owners from the uncertainty of having their land declared critical habitat if agencies believe the land may at some point in the future be needed for the species recovery...more

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