Michigan Joins Lawsuit to Stop the Rollback of Endangered Species Act Regulations

LANSING, MI – The Kirtland’s warbler, Karner blue butterfly and piping plover are among several species currently classified as threatened or endangered in Michigan – and Attorney General Dana Nessel this week joined 17 other Attorneys General and the City of New York in filing a lawsuit to protect them following the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Endangered Species Act.

Photo Credit: Jeol Trick of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters [CC BY 2.0]

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the challenge argues that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service’s decision to finalize three rules that undermine the key requirements and purpose of the Endangered Species Act is unlawful.

“By finalizing these rules, the federal government is not prioritizing the enhancement, restoration, or conservation of Michigan’s wildlife resources,” said Nessel. “According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan is a suitable home for 26 animal and plant species currently on their list as threatened or endangered. We must preserve these habitats to ensure that if they are not already here, there is a safe haven waiting for them. There is no way we can sit by while this administration is actively threatening the very existence of these species.”

Enacted in 1973, the Endangered Species Act is intended “to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction.” 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.

In the lawsuit, the 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 actions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to:

  • Add economic considerations to the Endangered Species Act’s science-driven and 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 change poses a threat;
  • Reduce consultation and analyses required before federal agency action;
  • Drastically 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 endangered species and habitats onto the state, detracting from the states’ efforts to carry out their own programs and imposing significant costs;
  • and Exclude analysis of and public input on the rules’ significant environmental impacts.

A list of the 26 threatened or endangered species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledges as “believed or known” to call Michigan home can be found here. Nessel joins the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington in filing this lawsuit.

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