The following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, submitted to SOURCE.
BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today, August 12, announced her intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) over final rules that dismantle many of the federal Endangered Species Act’s key protections for at-risk wildlife and their habitats.
Enacted more than four decades ago with nearly unanimous bipartisan support, the Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of all listed species including the bald eagle, humpback whale, green sea turtle, and whooping crane.
In Massachusetts, cooperative state and federal action under the Endangered Species Act has successfully increased piping plover populations by 500% since 1990.
The new rules finalized today, August 12, will significantly hinder these types of recovery efforts.
“By gutting key components of the Endangered Species Act, one of our country’s most successful environmental laws, the Trump Administration is putting our most imperiled species and our vibrant local tourism and recreation industries at risk,” said Attorney General Healey. “We will be taking the Administration to court to defend federal law and protect our rare animals, plants, and the environment.”
Today, AG Healey joined California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to declare the new rules as illegal, arbitrary and capricious, and in violation of the text and purposes of the Endangered Species Act.
The rules also allow FWS, NMFS, and other federal agencies to ignore serious threats to endangered animals and plants.
Specifically, the rules limit the circumstances when a species can be listed as threatened and do away with the requirement that the agencies consider the ability of a species to recover before removing it from the endangered or threatened list. The rules will also effectively gut the Act’s core mandate that federal agencies consult with FWS and NMFS to ensure that federal actions do not pose a threat to protected species.
“As we face the unprecedented threat of a climate emergency, now is the time to strengthen our planet’s biodiversity, not to destroy it,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Our precious wildlife and ecosystems are in critical danger. By rolling back the Endangered Species Act the Trump Administration would be putting a nail in our coffin – all for the sake of boosting the profits of those putting these species at risk in the first place. We’re ready to fight to preserve this important law – the species with whom we share this planet, and depend on, deserve no less.”
AG Healey contends that the Trump Administration’s new rules would pave the way for approval of oil and gas and other development projects despite any species impacts.
Overall, theses sweeping changes would deeply undermine the Act’s focus on science and diminish protections for imperiled wildlife while allowing the federal government to ignore or discount the profound threats that climate change poses to species and the environment.
Despite these significant harms, FWS and NMFS failed to review the rules’ potential environmental impacts and allow for the required public comment period, as required by law, when crafting the new regulations.
These misguided rules are particularly disturbing in the wake of the United Nation’s recent intergovernmental biodiversity report, which presents an alarming picture of the global extinction crisis facing a million species—more than in any other historic period. As the report emphasizes, this extinction crisis has grave implications for human health and wellbeing that cannot be ignored.
In September 2018, AG Healey co-led a group of 10 attorneys general in submitting comments that urged the Administration to withdraw its misguided proposal to dismantle the Act.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Matthew Ireland and Turner Smith, both of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division.