ESA states

The Interior Department, Idaho and Wyoming are appealing a court ruling that halted a Trump administration plan to ease land-use restrictions in seven Western states that protect struggling sage grouse, according to the notices filed Monday, Dec. 16, 2019.

A coalition of 13 states, including Idaho, on Monday joined the defense of the Trump administration’s revisions to the Endangered Species Act from an attack by 17 other states, including Oregon, Washington and California.

Idaho and like-minded states filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit brought by the other states, the District of Columbia and the city of New York. The suit seeks to toss out Trump’s ESA rules.

If the suit prevails, rural Idaho residents will lose, according to Scott Pugard, administrator of the governor’s office of species conservation.

“Because over 60% of Idaho’s land is federally managed, regulations that affect federal land use decisions have a profound impact on Idaho’s economy, custom, culture and way of life,” Pugard said in a court document.

The lawsuit is pending in the U.S. District Court for Northern California. If the presiding Judge Jon Tigar allows Idaho and its partners to intervene, a majority of states will be involved in the case.

The 17 states suing to repeal the Trump revisions are represented by Democratic attorneys general. The 13 states defending the changes have Republican attorneys general.

The states led by Democrats argue that the Trump administration has weakened the ESA, and a weaker federal law will undermine their efforts to conserve species.

The states led by Republicans say the Trump administration has enhanced species survival by reigning in the Obama administration’s overreach on designating critical habitat.

The Trump rules will allow states and landowners a chance to collaborate and be creative in protecting species, according to the state.

In one revision, threatened species will no longer automatically receive the same blanket protection as endangered species. Instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will write recovery plans tailored for each new threatened species.

The rule, according to the motion to intervene, will give “more room for states to take the lead in protecting threatened species in ways that protect landowners’ rights to make reasonable use of their property.”

Idaho has a history of working with federal agencies to protect species, such as the greater sage grouse, according to Pugard.

Tigar is also presiding over two lawsuits filed by environmental groups over the ESA changes.

According to the Justice Department, all of the lawsuits should be dismissed because the states and groups haven’t been harmed.

The revisions won’t apply to decisions already made by federal agencies, so it’s just speculation that the changes will undermine species protection, according to the Justice Department.

A hearing on the issue is set for next year.

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