Trump overhauling enforcement of Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is finalizing major changes Monday to the way it enforces the landmark Endangered Species Act, a move it says will reduce regulatory burden but critics charge will drive more creatures to extinction.

The administration was making public a final rule overhauling the way the federal government handles protections for plants and animals at risk of extinction. Information about the rule and Monday's release was obtained by The Associated Press beforehand.

The Endangered Species Act is credited with helping save the bald eagle, California condor and scores of other animals and plants from extinction since President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1973.

The Trump administration says the changes will make regulation more efficient and less burdensome while preserving protections for wildlife.

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Endangered species around the world
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Endangered species around the world

Sumatran orang-utan Anita, 23, and her baby Atina, 1, eat a fruit at the unveiling of their new habitat in the Singapore Zoo July 31, 2007. The Sumatran orang utans are categorised as critically endangered with their population standing at approximately 7500 in the wild, according to Singapore zoological officials.

(REUTERS/Nicky Loh)

Newly born Mexican gray wolf cubs, an endangered native species, are seen at its enclosure at the Museo del Desierto in Saltillo, Mexico, July 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Daniel Becerril)

Baby pygmy hippopotamus 'Lani' walks on a path on May 17, 2014 at the Basel Zoo. Lani is one around 135 pygmy hippopotamuses in the European Endangered Species Program.

(Photo by Fabrice Coffrini via Getty Images)

Pileated gibbonon the tree in real nature at Khaoyai national park, Thailand.

(kajornyot via Getty Images)

Two sand cats born on April 15, 2008 are pictured on April, 25, 2008 at the Amneville's zoo, eastern France. Sand cats are one of the smallest of the wild cats, ranging from Sahara in North Africa to the arid regions of Iran and Pakistan in West and South Asia.

(Photo by Johanna Leguerre via AFP/Getty Images)

This Mountain Pygmy Possum is part of a breeding program at Healesville Sanctuary, 10 March 2007.

(Photo by Andrew De La Rue/The AGE/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

Wild Black-footed Ferret, Mustela nigripes, also known as the American polecat or Prairie Dog Hunter, Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada, one of 35 reintroduced back into Canada in 2009.

(John E Marriott via Getty Images)

Koola, an 18-year-old western lowland gorilla holds her newborn infant in her enclosure at Brookfield Zoo on November 6, 2013 in Brookfield, Illinois.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

WINCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 01: Amur leopard cubs pictured enjoying their day at Marwell Zoo on September 1, 2016 in Winchester, England. THESE leopard cubs are only nine weeks old but already a media sensation. Two Amur leopard cubs made their first public appearance at Marwell zoo near Winchester this morning. The creatures are amongst the most endangered big cats in the world and these two young boys are part of a program to protect the leopard's future.

(Carolyn Dunford /Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Axolotls are seen in a cage where scientists of the Biology Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) are reproducing them at an experimental canal of Xochimilco in Mexico City February 13, 2014. Scientists at UNAM's Biology Institute have warned the Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) or Mexican salamander, could be at risk of extinction in the wild in five to 10 years as axolotl populations were declining in 2003. But a few canals in the southern Mexico City suburb of Xochimilco, the only waterways where some axolotls may still live, are threatened by pollution caused by the city's continuous expansion and the days of the species in the wild are numbered. The axolotl is now on the endangered species list of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

(REUTERS/Tomas Bravo)

A greater bamboo lemur is seen in this picture released by Conservation International on July 22, 2008. Researchers in Madagascar have found critically endangered greater bamboo lemurs living far from the only other place they were known to exist, raising hopes for the survival of the species, experts said on Tuesday.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Linus Fiely/Conservation International/Handout)

A Dendrobates leucomelas frog is pictured at a terrarium in Caracas November 30, 2015. Venezuelan frogs and toads are in critical danger due to climate change as rising temperatures complicate reproduction and spread a deadly fungus, say scientists, who liken the species to canaries in a coalmine warning of imminent danger. The survival of a group of nearly 20 frog and toad species, which top Venezuela's list of endangered species, may rest on a small group of academics in a Caracas laboratory attempting to recreate the amphibians' natural reproductive conditions. Picture taken on November 30, 2015.

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Seven months old 'Nuan Nuan', a female giant panda cub, plays inside the panda enclosure at the National Zoo in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 8, 2016. Nuan Nuan, which means 'friendship' in Chinese, was named in a ceremony where her name was picked from almost 23.000 suggestions coming from the Malaysian public.

(Photo by Alexandra Radu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A handout photo dated March 21, 2013 shows a short-eared elephant shrew swinging on his new swing in the Wilhelmina in Stuttgart, Germany. Short-eared elephant shrews grow only 22 to 24 cm long; half of the length is made up by the tail. They live in Africa and can reach a speed of up to 20 km/h.

(Photo by Susanne Kern/DPA)

Owabi, a two-week-old monkey cub of the Cercopithecus roloway family, one of the 25 most endangered primate species in the world, is pictured with its mother, Nyaga, on August 2, 2012 at the zoo in Mulhouse, eastern France.

(Photo by Sebstien Bozon via AFP/Getty Images)

An employee poses with an Egyptian tortoise during a photo call for Whipsnade Zoo's annual stocktake in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, north of London, on January 7, 2014.

(Photo by Carl Court via AFP/Getty Images)

This picture taken on November 8, 2016 shows Andatu, a Sumatran rhino, one of the rarest large mammals on earth, at the Rhino Sanctuary at Way Kambas National Park in eastern Sumatra. There are no more than 100 left on the entire planet and Andatu -- a four-year old male -- is one of the last remaining hopes for the future of the species. He is part of a special breeding program at Way Kambas National Park in eastern Sumatra that is trying to save this critically endangered species from disappearing forever.

(GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)

A zoo keeper holds a baby Philippine crocodile during the annual weigh-in to record animals vital statistics at ZSL London Zoo in London on August 21, 2014.

(Photo by Carl Court via AFP/Getty Images)

The "Indian" or "Java" rhinoceros is listed as a critically endangered of extinction, this rare animal has only one horn which marks the main difference with the African type.

(Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Cuban Greater Funnel-eared Bat. 

(Photo by Alex Borisenko/Biodiversity Institute of Ontario via Flickr)

A female Northern Bald Ibis, also referred to as Waldrapp, warms her nest while two fellows protect her at the zoo in St. Peter-Ording, Germany, on May 5, 2008.

(Photo by Carsten Rehder/DPA) 

A critically endangered small tooth sawfish roams its new home at Oceanworld in Sydney on August 18, 2011. Measuring over 1.5 metres in length, sawfish have adapted to live in both salt and fresh water, while their long saw-like rostrum (nose) has evolved to expertly forage for food under the sandy ocean floor.

(Photo by Torsten Blackwood via AFP/Getty Images)

A giant soft-shell turtle which is considered a sacred symbol of Vietnamese independence is guided into a cage for a health check by handlers at Hoan Kiem lake in the heart of Hanoi. Thousands of onlookers cheered in central Hanoi on April 3, 2011 when rescuers captured for treatment the ailing and ancient giant turtle. Legend has it that the turtle is the guardian of a magical sword once used in the 15th century to drive out Chinese invaders. Concern has mounted in recent months over the health of the animal likely to be over 100 years old and one of the last of a critically endangered species -- it is one of only four Rafetus swinhoei turtles known to exist in the world.

(Photo by Vietnam News Agency via AFP/Getty Images)

Madagascar Pochard

(Photo by darwin_initiative via Flickr)

A Hypsiboas crepitans frog is pictured at a terrarium in Caracas November 30, 2015. Venezuelan frogs and toads are in critical danger due to climate change as rising temperatures complicate reproduction and spread a deadly fungus, say scientists, who liken the species to canaries in a coalmine warning of imminent danger. The survival of a group of nearly 20 frog and toad species, which top Venezuela's list of endangered species, may rest on a small group of academics in a Caracas laboratory attempting to recreate the amphibians' natural reproductive conditions. Picture taken on November 30, 2015.

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Ema Elsa, a nine-year-old Black Rhino, lies next to her newborn calf in their enclosure at Chester Zoo in Chester, northern England October 5, 2012. The female calf which is less than 48 hours old will join an international breeding program for the critically endangered species.

(REUTERS/Phil Noble)

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At least 10 attorneys general joined conservation groups in protesting an early draft of the changes, saying they put more wildlife at greater risk of extinction.

A draft version of the changes released last year included ending blanket protections for animals newly deemed threatened and allowing federal authorities for the first time to consider the economic cost of protecting a particular species. Another change could let authorities disregard impacts from climate change, one of the largest threats to habitat, conservation groups said.

The final rule broadly sticks to those changes, according to a person briefed on the changes who was not authorized to publicly speak about them.

Conservationists promised legal action.

"This effort to gut protections for endangered and threatened species has the same two features of most Trump administration actions: it's a gift to industry, and it's illegal. We'll see the Trump administration in court about it," Drew Caputo, a vice president of litigation for the conservation advocacy group Earthjustice.

The Endangered Species Act currently protects more than 1,600 species in the United States and its territories.

A United Nations report warned in May that more than 1 million plants and animals globally face extinction, some within decades, owning to human development, climate change and other threats. The report called the rate of species loss a record.

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