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3 Ways Trumpís New Regulations Will Better Protect Endangered Species

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Unread 08.13.19, 07:06 PM
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3 Ways Trumpís New Regulations Will Better Protect Endangered Species

On 08.13.19 09:41 AM posted by Daren Bakst

The Trump administration has just taken an importantstep in the effort to protect threatened and endangered species.

On Monday, the administration published finalregulations that will improveimplementation of the Endangered Species Act.

This law simply hasnít worked. Over the lawís morethan 45 years, only about3%of the species listedas threatened or endangered have been removedfrom the list due to recovery.

To their credit, the Fish and Wildlife Service and theNational Marine Fisheries Service decidedto take action. They recognized that a significant part of the problem isconnected to how they have implemented the law.

Here are three of their important changes.

1. No longer treating threatened species as if they were endangered.

The Endangered Species Act applies its most significant protections to species classifiedas ďendangered,Ē including very stringent prohibitions against activities thatwould harm species or their habitats. This includes severe restrictions on howprivate property owners can use their land.

But for threatened species, the EndangeredSpecies Actís general rule is that these stringentprohibitions don’t apply.

Unfortunately, the Fish and Wildlife Service hasimplemented the law in the exact opposite fashion: The general rule is thatthese prohibitions do apply to threatened species.

This misguided approach hurts conservationefforts by diverting time and resources away from where they are most needed.It also removes important incentives for private property owners. For example,if the stringent prohibitions didn’t apply to threatened species, privateproperty owners would have the incentive to protect these species from becomingendangered in order to avoid these stringent prohibitions.

Fortunately, the final regulations would require the Fish and Wildlife Service to properly follow the law andtreat endangered and threatened species differently from each other. This wouldbe consistent with what Congress intended and follows what the National Marine Fisheries Service has been doing successfully for years.

This change would have no impact onthreatened species that have already been listed. This only applies to futurelisted species.

2. Promoting much-needed transparency.

The Endangered Species Act requires that science alone should determine whether tolist a species. The costs of protecting a species has nothing to do withwhether it is endangered or threatened.

However, the federal government has used thisscience-only requirement as an excuse to prohibit the identification of thebenefits and costs of listing a species.

Based on the final regulations, the federal government wouldstill make listing decisions without considering costs, but would start toidentify and communicate the impacts of these listing decisions.

Thereis nothing novel about informing the public about cost data that isnít used inagency decision-making. This is exactly what the Environmental ProtectionAgency does when designating the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

When legislators and the public know what theactual costs and benefits are for conserving species, they can betterunderstand the Endangered Species Act andhow existing law might be changed to achieve desired policy outcomes.

3. Stopping critical habitat designations that donít help to conserve species.

Under the Endangered Species Act, the federal government designates criticalhabitat for listed species, which may include areas that are not occupied bythe species. These unoccupied areas, however, must be essential to theconservation of the species.

The new final regulations would help to ensure any unoccupied areas are truly essential, and therefore help to prevent extreme situations, such as what happened in Louisiana.

In that case, the Fish and Wildlife Service determinedthat 1,544 acres of land in Louisiana was ďcritical habitatĒ for an endangeredspecies known as the dusky gopher frog. This was despite the fact thedusky gopher frog has not been seen in Louisiana in over 50 years and couldníteven survive on the property.

As the Pacific Legal Foundationís Mark Miller,who represented the property owners in the case, recently stated,ďThe feds may as well have labeled this Louisiana property critical habitat fora polar bear. It would have done just as much good.Ē


The administrationís new finalregulations are designed to better protect species. They may pose a problem forthose who are more interested in blocking development than the welfare ofthreatened and endangered species. For those though who want to improve recoveryefforts, these regulations are an important step forward.

The post 3 Ways Trumpís New Regulations Will Better Protect Endangered Species appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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