The Trump administration finalized changes rolling back the Endangered Species Act Monday. Regulators will now be allowed to factor in economic considerations when granting “endangered” status, species classified as “threatened” will see their protections weakened, and scientists will be limited in setting climate change-related protections. Critics say the changes were made to clear the way for mining, drilling and development projects in areas populated by protected species. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries. He is currently under investigation for possible ethics violations. The 46-year-old landmark Endangered Species Act has saved over 99% of classified animals, plants and insects since its inception. It’s credited with protecting the grizzly bear, the humpback whale and the bald eagle from extinction, among many others.
Environmental groups, Democratic lawmakers and attorneys general have vowed to fight the changes. The Sierra Club called the move the “Trump Extinction Plan.” The International Fund for Animal Welfare said in a statement, “The most comprehensive assessment of biodiversity ever completed was released earlier this year and shows that more than one million species are at risk of extinction. These species are inextricably linked to our own well-being, livelihoods, economies, food security, and overall survival. Gutting key protections of the Endangered Species Act is precisely the wrong action for the U.S. to be taking.”