Attorney General James Fights To Stop Trump Admin From Weakening Protections For Endangered Species

Attorney General James Fights to Stop Trump Admin from
Weakening Protections for Endangered Species

Dozens of Species in New York are Listed as Endangered or Threatened

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James joining a coalition of 18 attorneys general and the City of New York, today filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit argues that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service's decision to finalize three rules that undermine the key requirements and purpose of the Endangered Species Act is unlawful.

“These species are vital to the health and wellbeing of our ecosystems and this new rule would have devastating impacts on their viability and our entire environment," said Attorney General Letitia James. "We will continue to fight to protect these species, especially in the face of policies that will only expedite their extinction.”

“The Trump Administration has made another in a long list of egregious decisions by rolling back critical protections for endangered species and dismissing the very real threats climate change presents to these species’ survival,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos. “With the leadership of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Attorney General James, New York will continue to act to the fullest extent of its authority to protect threatened and endangered wildlife rather than deny these protections because of ill-founded and overblown concerns about economic impacts.”

For over 45 years, the Endangered Species Act has protected thousands of iconic and threatened species, including the bald eagle, California condor, grizzly bear, and humpback whale. Enacted under the Nixon Administration in 1973, the ESA is intended “to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.” The Trump Administration’s rules would dramatically weaken current protections and reduce federal Endangered Species Act enforcement and consultation, putting these endangered species and their habitats at risk of extinction. In New York, there are dozens of species listed as endangered or threatened under the Act.

In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. the coalition challenges the rules as arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, unauthorized under the Endangered Species Act, and unlawful under the National Environmental Policy Act. Of specific concern are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service unlawful actions to:

  • Inject economic considerations into the Endangered Species Act’s science-driven, species focused analyses;
  • Restrict the circumstances under which species can be listed as threatened;
  • Expand the Act’s narrow exemptions for designating critical habitats and limit the circumstances under which a habitat would be designated, especially where climate changes poses a threat;
  • Reduce consultation and analyses required as a prerequisite to federal agency action;
  • Radically depart from the longstanding, conservation-based agency policy and practice of providing the same level of protection to threatened species afforded to endangered species, which is necessary to prevent a species from becoming endangered;
  • Push the responsibility for protecting imperiled species and habitats onto the state, detracting from the states’ efforts to carry out their own programs and imposing significant costs; and
  • Exclude analysis of and public input on the rules' significant environmental impacts.

Joining New York Attorney General Letitia James in filing this lawsuit, are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.