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A proposal from the Trump administration could limit protection of the future habitats of endangered species, according to The Hill.

  • A new definition for habitat, in a proposal from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), defines it as “the physical places that individuals of a species depend upon to carry out one or more life processes. Habitat includes areas with existing attributes that have the capacity to support individuals of the species."
  • When a species becomes endangered, the government sets aside habitat it deems necessary for its recovery. With this new definition, environmental groups say that it allows the government to block putting aside land that isn’t presently habitat, but may be needed in the future.
  • Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said:

“It sounds kind of innocuous. But what this essentially says is if an area is degraded, if it can no longer support endangered species without restoration, then it couldn't be protected.”

  • House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) also chimed in on the proposal:

“The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to help endangered species flourish and expand back into their former habitats. If this rule were in place fifty years ago, the bald eagle would have been kept at death’s door in perpetuity, limited to a few square miles here and there. If this administration can’t tell the difference between where an endangered species lives today and where it would live if it were no longer endangered, it has no business rewriting this or any other law.”

  • Greenwald pointed out that the proposed definition could have disastrous effects as climate change continues to change habitats:
    “Take species threatened by sea level rise created by climate change. Areas they need for survival and recovery in the future may not be habitat right now.”

Read the full report.