Mon 9/24: Time is up today! The Endangered Species Act is endangered, in three acts.

Jim Hines of the Sierra Club has written us about three proposed regulatory changes that affect the Endangered Species Act.

“These [three actions] and other soon-to-be-coming regulations rollbacks are nothing more than part of a full scale effort by the Trump Administration to eliminate the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), an act which has worked just fine for 50 years saving thousands of plants, animals, birds and marine mammals from extinction…
…[U.S. Senator John Barrosso (R-WY) and Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, among others] are dedicated to a complete rollback of any regulation which protects wildlife in our nation and they are doing this all for the fossil fuels industry.”

This is a great video from 2012 that describes what the Endangered Species Act has been so far.

Action #1 – They keep moving the battlefield, thinking they’ll lose us…

  • The GOP hid environmental devastation in funding bills in what  could only be described as environmental war crimes. Our post on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is here.
  • They are hiding extinction in deceptively-named legislation (here) and (here)
  • They also like to kill threatened species abroad (here)

But until today’s deadline of September 24th, we are now concentrating on three proposed rule changes that would severely undermine the Endangered Species Act (earlier post here).

Alter this to sound like you and post herehere and here:
Written Script: I strongly oppose any weakening of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as currently proposed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The ESA was adopted in 1973, with overwhelming bipartisan support, and it has been very successful in preserving animal and plant species in the US since then. It is also overwhelmingly supported by the American people who want to see our environment protected and a natural heritage left for our children and grandchildren. The proposed changes would completely undercut the effectiveness of the ESA by overwhelming underfunded federal agencies tasked with making conservation decisions. The proposed changes would benefit a small group of commercial interests (oil and gas extraction, mining, ranching) to the detriment of our nation’s natural heritage and the survival of the species with which we share this land. This would destroy the effectiveness of the ESA’s intended goal of preserving species.
Comments must all be posted by TODAY, Sept. 24th!

Action #2 – Copy your comments to your legislators.

Rep. Brownley (CA-26): email
or Rep. Carbajal (CA-24): email
Senator Feinsteinemail
and Senator Harrisemail
Other Contacts: https://hq-salsa.wiredforchange.com

Action #3 – Call your senators about the fossil-fuel industry’s SCOTUS nominee, Brett Kavanaugh!

Check out the post here. Call the Democrats to support them!

Senator Feinstein: email DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: email DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Other Contacts: https://hq-salsa.wiredforchange.com

If you want to go deeper…

  • You can use the SAME comment for all three actions! (See samples at the bottom) 
  • The comments do NOT HAVE TO BE LONG!
  • Check out the samples at the bottom. We’ve attached  links to the comments pages for inspiration and printed some at the bottom of this post. 
  • Take an existing comment you like and ALTER IT TO MATCH YOUR OWN VOICE. Identical comments may be discarded.

#1 – Revision of the Regulations for Listing Species and Designating Critical Habitat

(Section 4) – Comment here, Find inspiration for comments here.

  • Strikes language that tells officials to ignore economic factors when listing, delisting, or reclassifying species as threatened or endangered and requires the Services to disclose the anticipate economic impact to the public.
  • Adding blinders to “foreseeable future”The original ESA uses the term “foreseeable future” to list species that were likely to be adversely impacted by climate change. The proposed rule directs scientists and policymakers to “avoid speculating as to what is hypothetically possible,” and to ignore climate science when designating species as threatened.
  •  “Prudent” exceptions: Would expand circumstances in which the Services may find that they cannot designate critical habitat for a species.
  • Delisting #1: A politically-partisan Secretary, like Zinke, can determine that a currently listed entity is neither a taxonomic species or subspecies, nor a “distinct population segment” and delist it. By the time it hits the courts, the area could be paved over.
  • Delisting #2: Regulatory changes make it easier for the FWS and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to delist a species,  thereby eliminating protections for recovering species. They could delist a vulnerable species without demonstrating that the recovery plan criteria were met.
  • Unoccupied habitat requirements: This proposal would allow some politically-partisan functionary or even a Secretary like Zinke, to limit the unoccupied critical habitat area that might be necessary to allow for the stress of climate change, unless a geographical area currently occupied is proven inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species, or  it results in less-efficient conservation for the species.

#2 – Revision of the Regulations for Prohibitions to Threatened Wildlife and Plants 

(blanket 4(d) rule) – Comment here. Find inspiration for comments here.

  • Eliminating automatic protections for species listed as “threatened” as opposed to “endangered” under the Section 9 of the Act. Revoking the existing regulation would increase the likelihood that future threatened species would be inadequately protected, or that their listing as “threatened” would be delayed while the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) developed a species-specific regulation.

#3 – Revision of Regulations for Interagency Cooperation 

(Section 7) – Comment here. Find inspiration for comments here.

  • Permitting habitat that is critical to the conservation of a listed species to be destroyed bit by bit. The existing regulations prohibit any alterations to critical habitat that appreciably diminishes its value for the conservation of a listed species. The proposed rule would change the phrase “critical habitat” to critical habitat as a whole, making currently unoccupied areas ripe for removal in a time when climate change stress might require species to expand their range for survival.
  • Eliminating references to “indirect effects” and effects of “interrelated and interdependent” actions and instead analyzing only impacts that would not happen “but for” the action being taken.
  • Eliminates references to ‘baseline jeopardy’: To determine whether a species is in “jeopardy” under the ESA, the level of peril a species already faces prior to any proposed agency action with potential to cause greater harm must be determined. Under the proposed changes, however, “there is no ‘baseline jeopardy’ status even for the most imperiled species,” a position which runs counter to federal court rulings.
  • Loopholes galore for avoiding consulting with with scientists and wildlife agencies. The opportunities for corruption increase as permit-seekers such as oil and gas drilling and logging companies can, without consultation oversight, convince someone-in-charge that their proposed actions would:
    • results in no appreciable impact” on listed species or critical habitat OR where the anticipated impact is small or inevitable or the risk “remote”.
    • have effects that are manifested through global processes” like climate change.
    • have effects that cannot be reliably predicted or measured at the scale of a listed species’ current range, at least by the person in charge.
    • have effects to listed species or critical habitat that are either “wholly beneficial or are not capable of being measured or detected in a manner that permits meaningful evaluation”.

General points

  • ESA is effective: For nearly 45 years the Endangered Species Act has served as a vital last line of defense for plants and animals on the verge of extinction.This popular law has been effective, preventing the extinction of 99 percent of the species under its care.
  • The ESA is popular: The law is also widely popular; polling shows that 90% of voters across the political spectrum support the law.
  • Damage has already been done by this Administration: In April, the administration weakened the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a century-old law by issuing guidance that says the law would not be used to hold people or companies accountable for killing animals. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill destroyed or injured up to a million birds. They would no longer face punishment under the new guidelines. Neither would a person who destroys a barn, for example, knowing that he would kill nesting baby owls in the process.

Sample Comments

Sample comments for Rule #1

Comment: I do not support the Trump Administrations proposed changes to the Section 4 Rule of the Endangered Species Act that will affect the procedures for listing, delisting, and reclassifying species, and designating critical habitat. To improve the efficacy of the ESA we need to strengthen, rather than weaken, protections for threatened and endangered species. These proposed changes will instead prioritize industry over wildlife.
I specifically oppose:
-Allowing any references to economic impacts in what should be entirely science-based decisions on whether to list at-risk species. I believe that developers and industry should not be given a louder voice in decisions about the future of vulnerable species.
-Overlooking the importance of unoccupied habitat for species recovery and protection when making critical habitat designations, thereby impairing the ability to fully protect listed species.
The vast majority of the American people support the Endangered Species Act and have done so for decades. This law is critical to the protection of our wildlife and is more important now than ever. Please withdraw these damaging proposals and leave the Endangered Species Act intact.

Sample comments for Rule #2

  • Comment: The FWS and NMFS should keep existing ESA protections in place in order to save threatened and endangered animals from extinction.The proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service would weaken ESA regulations by making it harder to secure and maintain federal protections for imperiled species.
  • Comment: Drop this unwise proposed rule. Without the Acts current protections, wildlife including the black-footed ferret, the grizzly bear, and the bald eagle may not be here today. Newly listed threatened species would lose protections under the revised Act, putting their populations at greater risk. The changes would prioritize corporate and political interests at the expense of the public’s in decision-making, and greatly weaken the ability of wildlife managers to designate critical habitat.
  • Comment: The endangered species act is interconnected with the protection, conservation, and safety net of slowing climate change, of preserving species that are part of complex ecological systems that re-establish species critical to the future. These ecological systems belong to the American people, to their children and grandchildren. Northern Europe, even several Middle Eastern countries are leaders in protecting endangered species. This is small special groups manipulating our public resources, our future, for short term economic gain and recreations. The Endangered Species Act is one of the most effective conservation laws in the United States. Ninety-nine percent of listed species have been saved from extinction, including iconic species such as the American bald eagle. The law is also widely popular, polling shows that 90 percent of voters across the political spectrum support the law. The proposed changes to the statute will weaken the law and put thousands of plants, animal and other species at risk.
    The changes proposed to remove the blanket protections for species listed in the future as threatened will prevent the immediate protection of plants and animals. Species listed as threatened could languish for years without any protections. The proposed regulation could also provide incentives to private landowners to eliminate species on their lands before a rule is issued. If these regulatory changes go into effect, many more species will fall from threatened to endangered, requiring more intervention from the government. Protection for threatened species needs to be maintained. We do not want more extinctions.
    I urge you not to move forward with these proposed changes and to leave the regulations to one of our most effective and popular conservation laws untouched. Please withdraw the proposed changes to 4(d) (protective regulations) rule. CFR Citation: 50 CFR 17 / Docket ID: FWS-HQ-ES-2018-0007

Sample comments for Rule #3

  • Comment: The changes proposed to the language of section 7 will make it harder to protect critical habitat that is being impacted by development. The protection of even extremely small sections of habitat is crucial for species conservation. If the mechanisms for enforcement of the protection of critical habitats are weakened, species will be put at greater risk. I urge you not to move forward these proposed changes and leave the regulations to one of our most effective and popular conservation laws untouched. Please withdraw the proposed changes section 7 (Interagency Cooperation) rule. CFR Citation: 50 CFR
  • Comment: I do not support the proposed changes to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act that will fast-track the consultation process for federal agencies and put industry interests before protections for listed species. Specifically,
    – Do not impose a deadline for the informal consultation process. This will threaten the integrity of the consultation and impede the Services ability to complete a thorough and accurate review of the proposed action.
    – Do not provide federal agencies with loopholes for avoiding consultation. This will allow federal agencies to claim that they dont anticipate take, their action wont affect species or habitat, or they are unable to measure the impacts of their action, in order to avoid review. Leave the consultation requirements intact.
    – Do not defy settled legal precedent by claiming there is no baseline jeopardy status for listed species. To ignore the combined impact of both a proposed action and the baseline conditions already threatening imperiled species is to ignore scientific reality and condemn species to incremental extinction.
    The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to outline the full impacts of human actions. These changes to the consultation process will lessen the Services ability to fully evaluate the implications that a proposed action has for listed species.
  • Comment: AMERICANS LOVE THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT! The Endangered Species Act is one of the most effective conservation laws in the United States. Ninety-nine percent of listed species have been saved from extinction, including iconic species such as the bald eagle. The law is also widely popular; polling shows that 90 percent of voters across the political spectrum support the law. The proposed changes to the statute will weaken the law and put thousands of plants and animal species at risk. Proposed changes will allow federal agencies to not acknowledge the broad consequences of their actions through changes to the consultation requirements of Section 7 of the Act. Section 7 consultations require that a federal agency that is funding, authorizing, or conducting an activity to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure that the activity does not jeopardize the existence of endangered or threatened species or destroy their critical habitat. The proposed changes will reduce the effects of agency actions required to undergo consultations. For example, the proposed rule seeks comment on changes that would stop consultation for effects like climate change that are manifested through global processes. The changes proposed will also make it harder to protect critical habitat that is being impacted by development. The protection of even small sections of habitat is crucial for species conservation. The proposed changes would allow death by a thousand cuts by ignoring impacts to species critical habitats unless they impacted the entire habitat at once. If the mechanisms for enforcement of the protection of endangered and threatened species and their critical habitats are weakened, species will be put at greater risk. I urge you not to move forward these proposed changes and leave the regulations to one of our most effective and popular conservation laws untouched. Please withdraw the proposed changes to section 7 (Interagency Cooperation) rule. CFR Citation: 50 CFR Part 402 / Docket ID: NOAA_FRDOC_0001

 General – Use on all three sites.

  • Comment: Do NOT revise, rescind or otherwise change any provisions of the Endangered Species Act.
  • Comment: These are terrible ideas and do not represent the interests of the American people or further the purpose of the agency for which the original rules exist. Do NOT implement these changes.
  • Comment: Please do not dismantle the Environmental Species Act. It is our duty to protect these creatures that are near extinction and preserve their existence for generations to come.
  • Comment: As a strong supporter of wildlife and the Endangered Species Act, I urge you to abandon your three major proposed changes for implementing the Act. These proposals would drastically undermine the Act and set us in exactly the wrong direction just as the planet is experiencing a sixth mass extinction period.
    The proposed Endangered Species Act regulatory changes would undermine the Act by: -Eliminating automatic protections for species listed as threatened under the Act
    -Allowing federal agencies to ignore the known threats to vulnerable species from climate change
    -Permitting habitat that is critical to the conservation of a listed species to be destroyed bit by bit
    -Letting federal agencies off the hook for protecting species listed under the Act as long as their actions wont speed up a species decline to extinctionthe exact opposite of the standard set in the Act itself, which seeks to ensure that federal agency actions don’t undermine a species ability to survive and recover.
    I strongly urge the Trump administration to withdraw these damaging proposals.
  • Comment: The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing species like the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. Even with the ESA in full force, however, there are indications that as many as one-third of America’s species are vulnerable, with one in five imperiled and at high risk of extinction. This crisis extends well beyond species officially listed as endangered, and now includes many garden variety creatures from monarch butterflies to songbirds. Experts note that some 12,000 species across the country are “in need of conservation action.” Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, disease, and chemical pollution are the leading wildlife threats. Climate change amplifies these threats. Changing climate and precipitation patterns will create new and increased risks of drought and flooding as sea level rise creeps up the coastlines. The effects on individual species remain mostly unknown, but are likely to ripple throughout ecosystems. Now, with our wild places in decline, is not the time to start weighing the economic costs of development against the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Nor do we have time to let threatened species become endangered before we move to act on their behalf. Reject these provisions whose only intent is to hobble the Endangered Species Act. We need an ESA acting in full force working to preserve our endangered wilderness, and the species with whom we share the planet.
  • Comment: I am adamantly opposed to any change to our current endangered species policies. There is one species that is overlooked in defense of the ESA and that is humans. A strong biodiversity and protection of our wildlife and habitat helps ensure a stable food supply, clean water, and clean air. The economic benefit of biodiversity dwarfs the value of developing critical habitat land for profit. Bees, for example, pollinate more than 90 commercial crops in the U.S. including fruits, nuts and vegetables. While the endangered species act focuses on individual species, it actually helps protect ecosystems that support those species. In turn, those can help keep air and water that people depend on clean, while also lowering costs on things like asthma caused by pollution.
    We have extremely smart and talented people working in industry that have the technology to engineer alternate ways their industries can operate within the current regulations without causing devastation of habitat and extinction of wildlife. Far more jobs would be lost if our food supply is lost or water polluted, and the economic cost to Americans far greater for generations to come. Our future generations of children would lose the opportunity to enjoy our rich beautiful land and wildlife.
    The endangered species act has been wildly popular and is supported by 90% of Americans according to recent polls. It has already brought back near extinct species like our beloved bald eagles, humpback whales and grey wolves. The ecosystems they support are thriving. The ESA has been proven to work. I implore you to make no change to the current policy so that our future generations of wildlife and humans alike are guaranteed. We must live responsibly with nature.
  • Comment: The Endangered Species Act is one of the most effective conservation laws in the United States. Ninety-nine percent of listed species have been saved from extinction, including iconic species such as the bald eagle. The law is also widely popular; polling shows that 90 percent of voters across the political spectrum support the law. The proposed changes to the statute will weaken the law and put thousands of plants and animal species at risk. Proposed changes will allow federal agencies to not acknowledge the broad consequences of their actions through changes to the consultation requirements of Section 7 of the Act. Section 7 consultations require that a federal agency that is funding, authorizing, or conducting an activity to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure that the activity does not jeopardize the existence of endangered or threatened species or destroy their critical habitat. The proposed changes will reduce the effects of agency actions required to undergo consultations. For example, the proposed rule seeks comment on changes that would stop consultation for effects like climate change that are manifested through global processes. The changes proposed will also make it harder to protect critical habitat that is being impacted by development. The protection of even small sections of habitat is crucial for species conservation. The proposed changes would allow death by a thousand cuts by ignoring impacts to species critical habitats unless they impacted the entire habitat at once. If the mechanisms for enforcement of the protection of endangered and threatened species and their critical habitats are weakened, species will be put at greater risk. I urge you not to move forward these proposed changes and leave the regulations to one of our most effective and popular conservation laws untouched. Please withdraw the proposed changes to section 7 (Interagency Cooperation) rule. CFR Citation: 50 CFR Part 402 / Docket ID: NOAA_FRDOC_0001
  • Comment: The Endangered Species Act is one of the most effective conservation laws in the United States. Since its passage 40 years ago, 99% of listed species have been saved from extinction, including iconic species such as the bald eagle. The law is also widely popular; polling shows that 90% of voters across the political spectrum support the law. The proposed changes to the statute will weaken the law and put thousands of plant and animal species at risk. Proposed changes will allow federal agencies to not acknowledge the broad consequences of their actions through changes to the consultation requirements of Section 7 of the Act. Section 7 consultations require that a federal agency that is funding, authorizing or conducting an activity must consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to ensure that the activity does not jeopardize the existence of endangered or threatened species or destroy their critical habitat. The proposed changes will reduce the effects of agency actions required to undergo consultations. For example, the proposed rule seeks comment on changes that would stop consultation for effects like climate change that are manifested through global processes. The changes proposed will also make it harder to protect critical habitat that is being impacted by development. The protection of even extremely small sections of habitat is crucial for species conservation. If the mechanisms for enforcement of the protection of endangered and threatened species and their critical habitats are weakened, species will be put at greater risk. I urge you not to move forward these proposed changes and leave the regulations to one of our most effective and popular conservation laws untouched. Please withdraw the proposed changes section 7 (Interagency Cooperation) rule.
  • Comment: The Endangered Species Act is a landmark piece of legislation that was passed by Congress with significant bipartisan support and signed by President Nixon in 1973. Widespread consensus regarding the incredible importance of protecting vulnerable species continues to this day. As of 2018, the vast majority of Americans support the Endangered Species Act.  Since passage of the law, over a thousand plant and animal species have been protected.  Now is not the time to remove these vital protections for threatened and endangered species by weakening the regulations. Without these important protections, incredible endangered species such as the North Atlantic Right Whale  and certain salmon species  could be more rapidly driven towards extinction. Furthermore, threatened species, such as the Southern Sea Otter,  which is currently recovering under protection of the Endangered Species Act, would lose important safeguards, potentially leading to their decline.
    Some of the proposed regulatory changes would fundamentally change the spirit of the Endangered Species Act regulations by reducing protections for the species that most need help to recover. For example, an essential component of the law is that there may be no economic considerations in the listing process; however, the proposed changes to the regulations allow economic considerations to be included when deciding whether to list a species as either “threatened” or “endangered.”  The Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to eliminate the rule automatically extending certain Endangered Species Act protections to threatened species.  Rather than rescind this longstanding rule, which would weaken prohibitions on killing, harassing or harming threatened species, the Fish and Wildlife Service should maintain the rule. Furthermore, the National Marine Fisheries Service should adopt the rule. Coordination along these lines will protect threatened species and prevent them from becoming endangered.
    The proposed changes make it more difficult to protect species impacted by climate change.  By carving out climate change threats to critical habitat and narrowing the definition of the “foreseeable future,” the Services are able to ignore climate change impacts on species, including warming temperatures sea level rise, melting glaciers and reduced snowpack.
    In addition to critical habitat, unoccupied habitat can be essential to the conservation of species. The proposed changes also make it harder to designate unoccupied critical habitat for protected species,  which often need room to roam and adapt to changes.
    To determine whether a species is in “jeopardy” under the Endangered Species Act, a crucial starting point is to determine the level of peril a species already faces prior to any proposed agency action that may cause even greater harm to a species.   Under the proposed changes, however, “there is no ‘baseline jeopardy’ status even for the most imperiled species,” a position which runs counter to federal court rulings.  Federal courts have also required consideration of the “tipping point” beyond which a species could not recover.  Neither of these important analyses would be required under the proposed changes to the regulations,  thereby obscuring the effects of an agency’s action upon the overall recovery potential of the species.
    The proposed regulatory changes make it easier for the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to delist a species,  thereby eliminating protections for recovering species. The Services will be able to delist a species without demonstrating that the recovery plan criteria were met. So, a vulnerable species could be delisted even if it has not fully recovered.
    Finally, the proposed changes to the rules would weaken the consultation process, a key aspect of the way the Endangered Species Act is implemented, requiring federal agencies to consult with the experts in the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. The range of agency actions that must undergo consultation is unduly narrowed, and deadlines are proposed that would pressure the Services to make hasty decisions regarding the protection of species.
    I stand in strong opposition to these proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act regulations. Please do not weaken protections for threatened and endangered species.

Reading:

  • Proposed Changes to Endangered Species Act Regulations (LegalIntelligencer)
  • Trump Administration wants to change key parts of the Endangered Species Act. (CNN)
  • These six species are about to be sacrificed for the oil and gas industry. (guardian)
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “Endangered Species Act – Special Rules” (US Fish & Wildlife Service)
  • These creatures faced extinction. The endangered Species Act saved them. (wapo)
  • How the Trump administration wants to weaken the Endangered Species Act. (Vox)
  • GOP scrambles to reform Endangered Species Act before midterms. (theHill)
  • Wildlife Opponent (Susan Combs) appointed seat as Director of wildlife policy. (Sierra Club)
  • WH reviewing proposal that would roll back protections for threatened species (CNN)

 

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