“How do you put a price on a bald eagle? Or the striped bass in the water. Or clean air or clean water?” asked Connecticut’s Attorney General William Tong during a press conference today announcing the state has joined with 16 others, the District of Colombia and the City of New York to challenge the Trump Administration’s rollback of the regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act.

“But they are trying to. They are trying to prioritize their view of economic value over the quality and value of our environment.”

Friends of Animals joined Tong on the porch of the Riverfront Boathouse in Hartford. We spearheaded a letter with several other environmental and animal advocacy groups urging Tong to join a multi-state lawsuit challenging the attack on the ESA.

“Our wildlife already grapples with habitat loss from over development, pesticide fallout, pollution in the Sound and climate change. And it’s only going to get harder for them to survive as Connecticut rapidly reaches an average temperature increase that eclipses the 2 degree rise in Celsius mark outlined in the Paris climate accords,” said Fran Silverman, FoA’s communications director, during the press conference.

“Friends of Animal has worked ardently to obtain ESA protections for species across the nation and to prevent them from being delisted. But still, more than one million species worldwide are threatened with extinction, prompting a U.N. report to call for transformative changes to protect nature,’’ Silverman said. “But instead of protecting these vital species, which include pollinators, the Trump Administration has declared open season on wildlife by weakening the ESA, scaling back national monuments and opening refuges and seashores to oil, fracking and energy interests. It’s critical Connecticut helps lead the challenge against these assaults and we support and appreciate Attorney General Tong’s vigorous efforts to fight for wildlife here and nationwide.”

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday in California federal court, the multi-state 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 changes pose 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
  • Exclude analysis of and public input on the rules’ significant environmental impacts

For over 45 years, the Endangered Species Act has protected thousands of iconic and threatened species, including the bald eagle, California condor, grizzly bear, and humpback whale. 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.

“I don’t relish having to do this work,” Tong said. “We shouldn’t be standing here today. I think a lot of us thought we settled this question a long time ago—that we have a duty to be good stewards and good partners to our environment. And to our world and to our wildlife who we share this world with.

“It’s deeply disturbing to me that the President of the United States has used the power of the regulatory process to attack endangered species, to make protection of endangered species contingent on their economic value.”

In Connecticut, there are at least 14 species listed as endangered or threatened under the Act. Endangered species include the Indiana bat, Eskimo curlew, roseate tern, leatherback turtle, Atlantic Ridley turtle, shortnose sturgeon, American burying beetle and the dwarf wedgemussel. Threatened species include the Northern long-eared bat, piping plover, loggerhead turtle, Atlantic green turtle, bog turtle, puritan tiger beetle and the northeastern beach tiger beetle.

The multi-state lawsuit was spearheaded by California, Maryland and Massachusetts.