White House Considering Rollback Of Protections For 300 Endangered Species

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Removing or relaxing blanket protections for threatened species would be a help to oil and agricultural companies.

According to CNN, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has sent a proposal for review by the White House that could see hundreds of at-risk species lose their protection.

There are currently 300 species guarded by blanket protections that could be at risk for sliding into the endangered category if the proposal, called "Removal of Blanket Section 4(d) Rule", were to be approved.

A spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service told CNN that to suggest the rule would overturn the protections is inaccurate. But the spokesman, Gavin Shire, would not elaborate about how that characterization was incorrect or what the proposal calls for, and he declined to provide a copy of the document.

The proposal has not yet been publicly released, and Shire said it is a "draft" that is "under internal review." He said it would be "premature" to discuss the proposal before the department releases it.

Noah Greenwald, head of the endangered species project at the Center for Biological Diversity, said removing, or even relaxing, such protections would benefit oil and agriculture companies that presently must take steps to avoid killing the species or destroying their habitats.

When naming a species as threatened, FWS decides whether to write specific protections for that species, or cover it with the blanket rule protections. About 70 species have specific rules, and 300 are covered by the blanket rule, Greenwald said.

Further concerning environmentalists is Susan Combs, currently heading up the Fish and Wildlife Service on a temporary basis.

The [Austin American-Statesman] reported that in 2013, Combs referred to endangered species protections as "incoming Scud missiles," and said she "clashed often" with Interior and FWS officials over the Endangered Species Act.