Environmental Groups Sue Trump Administration Over New Endangered Species Act Rules
A coalition of some of the largest environmental groups in the country joined forces to file a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Trump administration's maneuver to weaken the Endangered Species Act.
The Department of the Interior's changes to the Endangered Species Act — which has successfully protected 99 percent of the animals on the list and saved the iconic bald eagle, grizzly bear and gray wolf from the brink of extinction — make it easier to remove species from the list, ends protection for threatened species that are not yet endangered, and allows regulators to weigh the economic cost of protecting a species, as Ecowatch reported.
The groups that filed the complaint in the Northern District of California yesterday allege that the changes undermine the purpose of the law, according to CNN. The environmental groups claim that the manipulations of the law will drastically weaken protections for plants and animals, while benefiting industry groups and landowners, according to The Hill.
"Trump's rules are a dream-come-true for polluting industries and a nightmare for endangered species," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a press release. "Scientists around the world are sounding the alarm about extinction, but the Trump administration is removing safeguards for the nation's endangered species. We'll do everything in our power to stop these rules from going forward."
The lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), National Parks Conservation Association, WildEarth Guardians and the Humane Society of the United States.
The administration's tweaks to the law are particularly striking for their timing, which come just after a United Nations report that warned of a worldwide biodiversity crisis and predicted the extinction of one million species by the end of the century due to the climate crisis.
"In the midst of an unprecedented extinction crisis, the Trump administration is eviscerating our most effective wildlife protection law," said Rebecca Riley, legal director for NRDC's Nature Program in a statement.
The complaint makes several arguments to the court in asking it to reverse the Interior Department's changes. It claims that the Trump administration violated the National Environmental Protection Act by refusing to analyze how its changes will affect various species. The suit also argues that there are discrepancies between the agency's draft proposal and the final rules. That means another legal requirement was violated since the final rules were never available for public comment, as The Hill reported.
Additionally, the complaint alleges that the Trump administration trampled on the Endangered Species Act by changing the law that requires federal agencies to ensure that actions they authorize, fund or carry out do not harm any species or its habitat that is listed as threatened or endangered.
"Nothing in these new rules helps wildlife, period," said Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice attorney, in a statement. "Instead, these regulatory changes seek to make protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species harder and less predictable. We're going to court to set things right."
The changes to the law could also significantly lengthen how long it takes for species' protection, which could further threaten them, according to CNN.
"The new rules move the Endangered Species Act dangerously away from its grounding in sound science that has made the Act so effective — opening the door to political decisions couched as claims that threats to species are too uncertain to address," said Karimah Schoenhut, Sierra Club staff attorney, in a statement. "In the face of the climate crisis, the result of this abandonment of responsibility will be extinction."
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At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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