STATEMENT on new Interior Department rules that weaken Endangered Species Act enforcement

Aug 12, 2019

August 12, 2019

DENVER—The Interior Department today announced three final rules that collectively weaken enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. In response, the Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“Secretary Bernhardt has worked his entire career to weaken wildlife protections for the sake of more drilling and mining. As a lobbyist and lawyer, Bernhardt sued the Interior Department over Endangered Species Act implementation. Now he’s hand delivering another policy favor to his former clients in the oil and gas industry.

“Bernhardt’s record as Interior Secretary is shameful. At a time when wildlife are facing increasing threats from oil and gas development and climate change, he is gutting bedrock wildlife protections and rolling back public health safeguards on drilling. This is what you get when an oil lobbyist is in charge of our public lands.”

Since joining the Trump administration, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has taken repeated actions to weaken wildlife protections, blocking a report on pesticide impacts to endangered species, eliminating habitat protections for the sage-grouse, and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling. According to the New York Times, Bernhardt directed staff to strip protections for endangered fish in California, a key goal of one of his major lobbying clients.

During the Trump administration, the Interior Department has acted swiftly on extractive industry policy proposals. An analysis by the Center for Western Priorities found the agency has completed or taken action on at least 53 policy changes requested or supported by energy companies and trade associations, including at least 21 actions to reduce protections for wildlife.

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