In comments submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Commerce, WCS expressed its opposition to the Administration’s proposed changes to Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations that would undermine the core goals of the ESA, as articulated by Congress.

In July, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service announced proposed regulations that would weaken the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) ability to protect threatened and endangered species from extinction. These changes include the rescission of the blanket 4(d) rule that immediately provides critical protections to species when they are listed as “threatened.” The proposed rules would also allow the analysis of economic impacts of a potential listing to be collected and released with the listing decisions, undermining Congress’s clear intent that listing decisions be based solely on the best scientific and commercial data available. The proposals also target the streamlining of consultation processes in ways that would prevent full analyses of impacts.

WCS characterized these changes as preventing effective management, with the final result putting threatened and endangered species in more peril. WCS emphasized the ESA must continue to prioritize science-based decision making.

The comments, signed by WCS Executive Vice President for Conservation and Science John Robinson, conclude:

“For 45 years, the Endangered Species Act has been one of the most effective tools to protect and recover endangered and threatened species, and has demonstrated the United States’ leadership in saving vulnerable species and habitats. As one of the most powerful wildlife laws in the world, the ESA serves as a model for other countries to conserve their species and balance development opportunities in key wildlife habitats. Taken as a whole, the regulatory changes proposed by the Services will serve to weaken the ESA and hinder effective management of threatened and endangered species, and thereby also hinder species recovery. WCS urges the Services to reconsider their proposals and ensure that the ESA continues to serve its purpose of preventing the extinction of species in need of protection.”

WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs John Calvelli said, “The species listed as threatened are in trouble, and the ESA contains incentives for federal and state government entities to collaborate with private interests to find solutions that are to the benefit of all parties. WCS strongly supports existing law that states that decisions on whether to list or delist a species should be based on the best available scientific information. We are concerned that the proposed changes will enable other considerations to influence decisions. We cannot condone the dilution of the role of science.”

WCS works on the ground on the conservation of wildlife species, many of which are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA, including tigers, snow leopards, other Asian big cats, Asian and African elephants, African and Asian great apes—all of which are protected by the ESA. WCS also prioritizes work in the field on sharks and rays, cetaceans, and tortoises and freshwater turtles, many of which are ESA-listed. Finally, WCS works closely with the U.S. government, other government partners, and other stakeholders on international wildlife trade (including combating wildlife trafficking); the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is critical to these efforts, and is implemented by the U.S. government under the authority of the ESA.