Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today harshly criticized the proposed rollbacks of rules implementing the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Attorney General Kilmartin, as part of a coalition of 10 attorneys general, submitted a comment letter describing critical flaws with the ESA rollbacks proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
"The Endangered Species Act is one of the most important environmental laws in the country, and the proposed rollbacks of such protections could have a devastating impact on the numerous endangered species that call Rhode Island home," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
For over 45 years, the ESA has protected thousands of iconic and threatened species, including several species of sea turtles, the New England cottontail rabbit, and the piping plover, all of which have habitats in Rhode Island. The agencies' plan would dramatically weaken current protections and reduce federal ESA enforcement and consultation, putting these endangered species and their habitats at risk of extinction.
In the letter, Attorney General Kilmartin criticized the Trump Administration for its proposed rollbacks, which would significantly weaken protections for the nation's most imperiled species by:
o Decreasing the likelihood that species would be listed for protection; o Decreasing the likelihood that critical habitat would be designated for protection; o Reducing required consultation with federal agencies, thereby reducing federal agencies' opportunities to evaluate and issue findings that proposed actions will have adverse impacts, and to require necessary mitigation for such impacts on listed species and critical habitats; and o Repealing regulations that protect threatened species from harm, harassment, or death from human activity.
The Endangered Species Act is one of many landmark federal environmental laws passed in the 1970s, a time when Congress and the American public were becoming more aware of and troubled by the advancing degradation of the nation's natural resources. It has been one of our country's most effective tools for ensuring human activities that may adversely affect endangered and threatened species and their habitats are avoided or significantly reduced, preventing the extinction of 99% of species listed under the Act since its inception in 1973.