Friends of Animals is fighting back against attempts to weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that could eviscerate protections for vulnerable animals.

FoA filed comments this week with FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service against proposed rule changes that would severely escalate delays in the listing process for endangered and threatened species.

Since the act was passed in 1973, it has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of species under its protection and allowed the designation of millions of acres of critical habitat, which is crucial to a specie’s survival. 

“The proposed rule is not only inconsistent with the ESA, it will also further drive wildlife to extinction and waste millions of taxpayer dollars,’’ FoA said in its comments, filed Sept. 24.

FoA has obtained ESA protections for several species, including prairie dogs, red parrots and hammerhead sharks, and sturgeons, and continues to work to get protections for others such as the queen conch, scarlet macaw and the yellow-billed cuckoo.

Proponents of the changes claim they will allow more input from state officials and allow specific rules for particular species. But what the rule change really does is require species-specific rules for every listed animal population, instead of the blanket rule covering all species that are listed. If FWS has to issue a species-specific rule each time, it will involve an enormous amount of time and taxpayer-funded resources, FoA noted in its comments.

Currently, FWS has issued species specific rules for only about 10 percent of the 300 threatened wildlife species, including African elephants, grizzly bears and gray wolves. (Recently, FWS tried to strip Yellowstone grizzlies of their protections as threatened species, allowing them to be hunted, but a federal court overturned the agency’s rule change. Republicans in Congress have also introduced several bills that would weaken ESA, including blocking courts from intervening in the administration’s decisions to lift protections.)

“Creating species specific rules for every species opens the doors for political interference and industry pressure on a process that Congress requires to be based solely on the best scientific and commercial data,’’ FoA’s Wildlife Law Program Assistant Director Jennifer Best wrote in the comments. “FWS should reject the proposed rule because it contradicts the ESA, places species at further risk of extinction, increases agency backlog and creates additional unnecessary regulatory burdens and uncertainty.”

More about FoA’s work regarding the Endangered Species Act can be found here.