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NC Challenges Endangered Species Rollbacks

RALEIGH — North Carolina’s Attorney General Josh Stein joined Wednesday with more than a dozen attorneys general from across the country to file a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s rollback of the Endangered Species Act.

The West Indian manatee is an endangered species. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey

The lawsuit argues that the final rules are unlawful and undermine the key requirements of the law, his office announced.

The Endangered Species Act has been in place for 45 years. In North Carolina, 64 plant and animal species are listed as endangered or threatened under the Act.

Revisions include a new requirement to provide costs involved in protection of each species; the same protections given to an endangered species will no longer cover a designated threatened species; and the former habitat or areas of the species that extend beyond its current habitat will be eliminated as a protective measure, as Coastal Review Online reported Wednesday.

“Protecting North Carolina’s environment also means protecting our state’s plants and animals and their habitats. The Endangered Species Act is critical to those efforts,” said Stein in a statement. “I’m suing the administration because its actions are illegal and would put endangered and threatened species at risk of extinction.”

The decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to finalize three rules would weaken current protections and reduce federal enforcement and consultation, putting these endangered species and their habitats at risk of extinction, according to Stein’s office.

Stein is joined in filing this lawsuit by the Attorneys General of California, Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia and the city of New York. A copy of the lawsuit is available here.

The lawsuit challenges that the rules are arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, unauthorized under the Endangered Species Act and unlawful under the National Environmental Policy Act.

According to Stein’s office, the attorneys general contend the federal government’s actions would do the following:

  • Inject economic considerations into the Endangered Species Act’s science-driven, species focused analyses.
  • Restrict the circumstances under which species can be listed as threatened.
  • Expand the Act’s narrow exemptions for designating critical habitats and limit the circumstances under which a habitat would be designated, especially where climate changes poses a threat.
  • Reduce consultation and analyses required before federal agency action.
  • Radically depart from the longstanding, conservation-based agency policy and practice of providing the same level of protection to threatened species afforded to endangered species, which is necessary to prevent a species from becoming endangered.
  • Push the responsibility for protecting imperiled species and habitats onto the state, detracting from the states’ efforts to carry out their own programs and imposing significant costs.
  • Exclude analysis of and public input on the rules’ significant environmental impacts.
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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.