Utah Is No Exception To The Rule: Changes In The Endangered Species Act May Hit Close To Home

Aug 19, 2019

There are 42 threatened or endangered species that call Utah home. These species are protected by federal law through the Endangered Species Act. However, the Trump administration recently announced some big changes to the act, which may have a large impact on those species.

The Trump administration announced three major changes for the Endangered Species Act. First, a repeal of the blanket protections for species listed as threatened - the designation for species that are likely to become endangered. This repeal will make it legal for members of some of those species to be killed.

Second, government officials can now limit the timeframe that they consider for potential future threats, which makes it possible for them to ignore long-term threats to species survival such as climate change.

Third, the new language allows officials to assess the economic impact of protecting species, something that was never allowed before.

“Administrating the Endangered Species Act is an ongoing responsibility. We certainly have revised regulations in the past. We just took advantage of this administration to do a more comprehensive review of our regulations than we have done in the past.”

That was a pre-recorded statement from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director Gary Frazer. The Fish and Wildlife Service was unwilling to talk with me about these changes or how they will affect Utah species.

The changes are scheduled to take effect in mid-September. State officials from California and Massechussetts announced that they will sue to stop the changes. I reached out to the Utah Attorney General for comment and received confirmation that the office does not have an official position on the Endangered Species Act and are planning no litigation at this time.