Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a multi-state lawsuit Wednesday challenging Trump administration rules that significantly undermine the Endangered Species Act, according to the office.
Washington is home to 49 species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, including southern resident killer whales, pygmy rabbits, green sea turtles and several salmon species such as chinook, chum and sockeye.
“The new rules increase the likelihood that these species will lose their federal protections before they have fully recovered,” according to a news release from the Attorney General’s Office.
Three species in Washington — western pond turtles, wolverines and Island Marble butterflies — are candidate species, meaning they are under consideration for threatened or endangered status.
“For more than four decades, the Endangered Species Act has been a worldwide model of conservation law,” Ferguson said. “This administration has shown over and over that it will stop at nothing to slash regulations at the whim of industry interests, even if it means putting our shared ecosystem at risk. Every time my office has brought the Trump Administration to court over environmental rollbacks, we’ve won. I expect this lawsuit will be no different.”
On Aug. 27, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service published a suite of three rules that illegally and arbitrarily weaken essential protections in the Endangered Species Act. Two of the rules will go into effect on Sept. 26, 2019. One will go into effect Oct. 28, 2019.
According to Ferguson’s office, the new rules would cause a species downgraded from “endangered” to “threatened” to lose protections, would make it easier for federal agencies to take actions that could harm an endangered species, such as a construction project and would eliminate species recovery as a key basis for removing a species from the list.
The new rules would also make it harder to designate areas as “critical habitat” for species, according to Ferguson’s office.
“We are already witnessing mass extinction of species across the globe, against the backdrop of a changing climate, rising sea levels and a rapidly warming planet. It is abhorrent that the Trump administration could single-handedly wipe out endangered animals and plants for future generations by gutting the Endangered Species Act, which has been a critically important tool for more than 40 years,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “I fully support Attorney General Ferguson’s actions and look forward to defeating the administration again in court to protect Washington’s animals, plants and their habitats.”