WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a comprehensive legal petition today urging the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to take bold, urgent action to stem the global extinction crisis by strengthening the Endangered Species Act’s implementing regulations.
Noting that “extinction is not inevitable — it is a political choice,” today’s petition on the two federal agencies to not only undo the Trump-era rollbacks to the Act, but to push for ambitious new regulatory safeguards that strengthen all aspects of the law.
The petition calls on the services to holistically address the threat of climate change, reduce illegal political interference that corrects scientific integrity, strengthen law enforcement and add new measures to ensure accountability for extractive industries that harm the habitats of endangered species.
“The Endangered Species Act has saved hundreds of irreplaceable plants and animals from extinction, but it could be doing so much more good,” said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Center. “Despite the law’s remarkable success, the services have been reluctant to fully implement it, succumbing to years of political and industry pressure to weaken what is the only hope for imperiled species. The time for reform is now.”
In addition to undoing the Trump-era rollbacks — which the Biden administration has started to do, but at a sluggish pace — the petition for more ambitious improvements to achieve the Act’s mandate that extinction be halted “whatever the cost.” Some of those improvements include:
- Empowering career scientists to make science-based decisions without fear of political reprisal;
- Guaranteeing that federal agencies can no longer ignore the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from their actions on climate change and climate-imperiled species;
- Strengthening protections for critical habitat to protect key areas where species can live;
- Creating a scientifically defensible definition of recovery;
- Defining “significant portion of its range” to fulfill Congress’ intent that species be protected before they are threatened with worldwide extinction;
- Requiring all federal agencies to have proactive conservation programs in place for listed species harmed by their actions;
- Requiring habitat conservation plans to confer a net benefit whenever development activities harm endangered species;
- Strengthening protections for foreign listed species;
- Strengthening the regulations governing the reintroduction of experimental populations; and
- Revamping the enhancement permitting program to address dubious trophy hunting practices overseas that do not actually enhance the survival or propagation of species.
“Combating the extinction crisis and restoring our natural heritage are monumental challenges that will require the services to be more visionary than any other administration in history,” said Kurose. “We challenge Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the Biden administration to change the status quo and do whatever it takes to protect our planet for future generations.”