Threatened species have had it easy for too long

Those bastards.

The US government is making drastic changes to how the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is applied. The revisions weaken protections for threatened species, and will allow federal agencies to conduct economic analyses when deciding whether to protect a species.

The changes, finalized by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service on 12 August, are among the most sweeping alterations to the law since it was enacted in 1973.

President Donald Trump’s administration says that these updates will ease the burden of regulations and increase transparency into decisions on whether a species warrants protections. But critics say that the revisions cripple the ESA’s ability to protect species under increased threat from human development and climate change.

Of course they will “ease the burden of regulations,” and by doing so they will augment the burden of threats to endangered species. The goal isn’t and shouldn’t be always to “ease the burden of regulations”; some regulations are important enough that we just have to put up with the burden. It’s a regulation that we can’t murder people, and that regulation is bound to be a burden to people who want to commit murder, but that’s just too bad. It’s a regulation that corporations can’t dump toxins into the nearest river, but there are compelling reasons for such a regulation, burden or no burden.

“These changes tip the scales way in favour of industry,” says Brett Hartl, government-affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group in Washington DC. “They threaten to undermine the last 40 years of progress.”

The attorneys general of California and Massachusetts have already announced their intention to sue the Trump administration over the changes, which they call unlawful.

Yes but it’s burdensome of us to say that Trump can’t do whatever he feels like regardless of the law.

Chief among the changes is the removal of blanket protections for threatened animals and plants.

Until now, any species deemed threatened — a category for organisms at risk of becoming endangered — by the FWS automatically has received the same protections as endangered species. They include bans on killing threatened and endangered species. Now, those protections will be determined on a case-by-case basis, a move which will likely reduce overall protections for species that are added to the threatened list, says Hartl.

The revisions also narrow the scope of those protections. Previously, government officials considered threats that would affect a species in the “foreseeable future”, such as climate change. Now, they have leeway to determine the time period meant by the foreseeable future, and can only consider threats that are “likely” to occur in that time frame. Critics say that this weaker language could allow regulators to ignore threats from climate change, such as rising sea levels, because their effects might not be felt for decades.

And in a third change to the ESA, the Trump administration removed language explicitly prohibiting the consideration of the economic impacts of listing a species.

It’s all about the money.

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