Wisconsin’s Attorney General Joins Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration’s Rollback of the Endangered Species Act

AG Kaul Joins Lawsuit Challenging Rollback of Endangered Species Act Regulations

Oct 22 2019

MADISON, Wis. – Attorney General Josh Kaul is joining a coalition of now 20 attorneys general and the City of New York in a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The challenge argues that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service’s decisions to finalize three rules that undermine the key requirements and purpose of the Endangered Species Act are unlawful.

“The Trump administration’s decision to adopt rules weakening the Endangered Species Act is unwarranted and unlawful. As the effects of climate change put more species at risk, we should be strengthening our conservation efforts, not undermining them,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul.

Nixon signs into law Endangered Species Act, Dec. 28, 1973

For over 45 years, the Endangered Species Act has protected thousands of iconic and threatened species, including the bald eagle and whooping crane. Enacted under the Nixon Administration in 1973, the ESA is intended “to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.” The Trump Administration’s rules would dramatically weaken current protections and reduce federal Endangered Species Act enforcement and consultation, putting these endangered species and their habitats at risk of extinction.

In Wisconsin, there are more than 20 species listed as endangered or threatened under the Act.

A Wisconsin Gray wolf. Photograph from Snapshot Wisconsin.

In the lawsuit, the coalition challenges the rules as arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, unauthorized under the Endangered Species Act, and unlawful under the National Environmental Policy Act. Of specific concern are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service actions to:

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 change 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; and

Exclude analysis of and public input on the rules’ significant environmental impacts.

Relevant court findings click here.

STATE OF CALIFORNIA, COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS, STATE OF MARYLAND, STATE OF COLORADO, STATE OF CONNECTICUT, STATE OF ILLINOIS, PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, STATE OF MINNESOTA, STATE OF NEVADA, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, STATE OF NEW MEXICO, STATE OF NEW YORK, STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, STATE OF OREGON, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, STATE OF RHODE ISLAND, STATE OF VERMONT, STATE OF WASHINGTON, STATE OF WISCONSIN, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, and CITY OF NEW YORK,

Plaintiffs,

V.

DAVID BERNHARDT, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, WILBUR ROSS, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, and NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE,

Defendants,

Lawsuit argues that wolves must remain federally protected until the Fish and Wildlife Service implements a national recovery plan.

“We won’t let the Trump administration bring wolf recovery to a screeching halt to benefit the blood sport of trophy hunting,” said Collette Adkins, a Minneapolis-based Center biologist and attorney. “If successful, our lawsuit would require the feds to recover wolves nationwide and block their efforts to prematurely remove protection.”

Lawsuit Fights Trump Administration Effort to Strip Gray Wolves of Protection 

Action Seeks Legally Required National Wolf Recovery Plan

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for violating the Endangered Species Act by never providing a comprehensive recovery plan for gray wolves nationwide, which is required by the law.

Today’s lawsuit argues that wolves must remain federally protected until the Fish and Wildlife Service implements a national recovery plan. But the agency is planning to remove endangered species protection from nearly all gray wolves in the lower 48 states through a proposed rule expected next month. 

That would make wolves vulnerable to trophy hunting and trapping, halting their progress toward recovery. 

“We won’t let the Trump administration bring wolf recovery to a screeching halt to benefit the blood sport of trophy hunting,” said Collette Adkins, a Minneapolis-based Center biologist and attorney. “If successful, our lawsuit would require the feds to recover wolves nationwide and block their efforts to prematurely remove protection.”

A recovery plan would enable wolves to establish viable populations in areas where small populations are still recovering, including California, Oregon and Washington. 

It would also promote recovery in areas like the southern Rockies, Dakotas and Adirondacks, which have suitable wolf habitat but no remaining wolf populations. 

“Wolves are still missing from more than 90 percent of their historic range in the lower 48 states, and the Endangered Species Act, and common sense tell us we can’t ignore that loss,” said Adkins. “We’re doing all we can to make sure Trump officials fulfill their obligation to restore wolves in key habitats across the country.”

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, explains that the Service unreasonably denied the Center’s formal petition requesting development of a nationwide wolf recovery plan. Beyond the plan the Endangered Species Act requires the agency to conduct a status review every five years. But six years have passed since the last national wolf status review.

For Immediate Release, November 14, 2018

Contact: Collette Adkins, (651) 955-3821, cadkins@biologicaldiversity.org

Featured photographs by John E Marriott