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  • The last rays of sunlight illuminate an American Bald Eagle as it soars above the Hudson River just before sunset near Croton Point in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, March 23, 2015.

    The last rays of sunlight illuminate an American Bald Eagle as it soars above the Hudson River just before sunset near Croton Point in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, March 23, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 August 2019
Opinion

Last week, U.S. Commerce and Interior Departments finalized changes to the Endangered Species Act, claiming it will streamline the law. Conservation groups say it will threaten at-risk species.

Environmental and animal rights groups on Wednesday sued the Trump administration over its proposal to revise the nation's Endangered Species Act (ESA), seeking to block changes to the decades-old law they say will roll back protections for animals at risk of extinction.

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“The new rules move the Endangered Species Act dangerously away from its grounding in sound science that has made the Act so effective,” said Karimah Schoenhut, staff attorney for environmental activist group, Sierra Club, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, brought by Earthjustice on behalf of seven organizations, argues the government violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to publicly disclose and analyze the impact of its revision and inserted changes into the final rules that the Trump administration never made public, or subject to public comment.

On Tuesday, the plaintiffs also filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue based on charges related to other sections of the ESA changed by the presidency that allows the government to include economic considerations into listing decisions and eliminate automatic protections for newly-listed threatened species.

The 1970s-era ESA is credited with bringing back from the brink of extinction species such as bald eagles, gray whales and grizzly bears. However, the law has long been a source of frustration for drillers, miners and other industries because it can put vast areas of land off-limits to their soc-called development and drilling.

The rollback of the ESA, long sought-after by energy developers, is one of many moves by U.S. President Donald Trump to relax regulations to hasten oil, gas and coal production, as well as grazing, ranching and logging on federal land during an extremely critical time for the planet and climate change.

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