The Trump administration proposed changes Thursday to the Endangered Species Act that would limit protections for the thousands of endangered plants and animals covered under the law.
The rollback would make it easier to de-list an endangered species and harder to protect endangered species' habitat, the Hill reports. It would also end a policy that extends the same protections to threatened species as endangered ones, forcing the agency to make decisions on threatened species on a case-by-case basis.
Since its passage in the 1970s, the law has faced challenges from industry, including budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2017, Pacific Standard reported on those challenges as they arose during a Senate committee hearing:
[Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works] Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) said that fewer than 3 percent of species have sufficiently recovered since the Endangered Species Act was signed into law in 1973. He used this as grounds for his argument to "modernize" the law.
[Barrasso] fails to recognize the difference between preventing a species from extinction and removing it from the ESA's list. ... Species recovery, in other words, takes time and resources. As Jamie Rappaport Clark, CEO of Defenders of Wildlife and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under President Bill Clinton, said at the Senate hearing: "The biggest problem that the Endangered Species Act faces is not a need for modernization—it is a need for funding."
Conservationists say the proposed rollback strips the law of its power and puts wildlife at risk. "These regulations are the heart of how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. Imperiled species depend on them for their very lives," Clark told the Washington Post.