Press Release Jul 31, 2020

Trump Administration Continues Efforts to Weaken Protections for Park Wildlife

This proposal is just the latest of many attempts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, the nation's most effective tool in saving wildlife from extinction. 

Background: Today, the Trump administration announced a proposed regulatory change that threatens the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act. The proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service provides a narrow definition of the term habitat, which would exclude areas that could be viable in the future for species with minimal alterations. This is especially troubling as wildlife habitat in national parks and their broader ecosystems are already experiencing changes due to climate change.

The Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) purpose is the conservation of threatened and endangered species and the ecosystems they depend on. Critical habitat designations provide essential protections for listed species by largely prohibiting federal agencies from permitting, funding or carrying out actions that “adversely modify” designated areas. In some instances, critical habitat designations for park species reach well beyond park boundaries, which supports collaborative conservation between state, tribal, federal and private entities for effective management.

This proposal is just the latest of many attempts to weaken the ESA, the nation’s most effective tool in saving wildlife from extinction. The National Parks Conservation Association, along with other conservation organizations, is currently suing the Trump administration over its prior ESA regulatory changes which, among other things, stripped newly listed threatened species of automatic protection, weakened protection of species’ critical habitat and relaxed consultation standards that are meant to ensure federal agencies avoid jeopardizing species’ survival.

Statement by Bart Melton, Wildlife Program Director for the National Parks Conservation Association

“The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is deeply concerned by the administration’s latest proposal to reinterpret the Endangered Species Act. The draft regulation released today cuts at the very purpose of this bedrock law by potentially limiting the conservation of critical habitat for imperiled plants, fish and wildlife.

“More than 600 threatened and endangered species call America’s national parks home and parks are many times at the core of designated critical habitat areas. Critical habitat designations support a broad range of species, including the piping plover at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog at Yosemite and the Canada lynx at Grand Teton.

“Amid the climate crisis and accelerated extinction rates of species worldwide, the administration is proposing to limit the protection of habitat that is vital to America’s wildlife. NPCA urges the administration to abandon today’s proposed action and instead, invest in collaborative conservation of critical habitat for America’s most imperiled species.”

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About The National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.