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by Liz Clift

If you’ve been looking at the news—or social media—this month, you’ve probably seen that changes are coming to the Endangered Species Act. The changes will go into effect 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register. This blog provides a primer on these changes.

  • The new rules allow greater discretion on whether or not newly listed threatened species will be protected (they will not longer be guaranteed the same rights as endangered species).
    • Previously, species were listed as threatened based on the likelihood they would become endangered in the “foreseeable future.” Under the new rules, foreseeable future is determined on a case-by-case basis. This means opens the door for ignoring the long-term impacts of climate change, development pressures, and other factors that could decrease a species’ habitat, ability to breed, or forage.
    • Species previously listed as threatened will still be protected under the former rules.
  • The changes remove language that required decisions about listing a species to be based on the best available science and “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination.”

What will these changes mean? How this all actually plays out is to be determined, since a variety of organizations are planning lawsuits to challenge these changes—but these rollbacks could have negative impacts for those who are working toward species conservation.