Governors want more say in habitat rule for at-risk wildlife

Governors from 22 Western states and Pacific territories want a bigger say in how the Trump administration defines habitat for wildlife protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The new definition could have implications for how states manage imperiled animals and plants, the Western Governors Association said in a letter Thursday to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The governors insist they are “co-sovereigns with the federal government” and need an equal role in the decision.

The Trump administration is seeking to restrict what land and waterways can be protected as habitat for wildlife facing extinction, one of the latest ways it’s sought to roll back environmental safeguards.

The government is trying to redefine what habitat means for the purposes of enforcing the Endangered Species Act, the landmark law that has dictated wildlife protections in the U.S. since 1973. It released a proposed rule in early August.

Governors said they’re having to express their views through a public comment process on the proposed rule, saying that isn’t enough input and they want the federal government to consult with states.

Once an imperiled species is listed under the act, federal officials designate critical habitat that it needs to survive. That can include where a species lives and areas where they don’t live but are deemed essential for survival. Such designations can come into conflict with private landowners and those using public lands for recreation, grazing or energy development.  (AP)

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