red knots

Red knots.

Photo: Pixabay

The U.S. Department of the Interior sent a proposed rule to the White House this week that effectively would rescind most protections for 100 species designated as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The rule targets species in California, Hawaii, and scores more fish, birds and mammals around the country. They include southern sea otters, northern spotted owls, piping plovers, red knots, Yosemite toads, delta smelt, Santa Catalina Island foxes and gopher tortoises.

The proposal would rescind a 40-year-old rule protecting wildlife in the United States.

In 1975, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enacted a rule granting threatened species the same level of protection as endangered species. And only if the service determined that fewer protections were warranted could protections be relaxed. 

“The Trump administration just issued a death sentence to more than 100 threatened species,” Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “If enacted, this rule could be the end for iconic wildlife like the northern spotted owl and southern sea otter. Trump is erasing America’s natural heritage to make his friends richer and allow polluters to ravage our environment. It’s disgraceful.”

In 2016, the right-wing advocacy group Pacific Legal Foundation petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to rescind the 1975 protective regulation.

That petition was authored by Damien Schiff,  later nominated by President Donald Trump to be a federal judge.

“If these critical protections for threatened species are eliminated, Trump will go down in history as the extinction president,” Greenwald said. “This administration’s assault on critical safeguards for our air, water and wildlife is not supported by the American public. It threatens to undo decades of progress towards improving the health of the environment for people and wildlife alike.”

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