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Wisconsin AG joins lawsuit over Endangered Species Act changes

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Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is using some bombastic language to describe last summer’s changes to the U.S. Endangered Species Act to explain why he is joining a lawsuit to roll them back. 

He called the changes “unwarranted and unlawful.”

Kaul on Wednesday said he is suing the Trump Administration over August’s rule changes that give regulators more latitude when it comes to dealing with endangered or threatened animals, birds, fish, reptiles or any other form of wildlife. 

“As the effects of climate change put more species at risk, we should be strengthening our conservation efforts, not undermining them,” Kaul said. 

But there are many who say the changes are common sense

The Trump Administration earlier this year changed the Endangered Species Act to make a clear difference between the protections for endangered wildlife and species that are threatened. The old rules treated both the same. 

The changes allow regulators to consider what it would cost to halt a project in the name of protection. That research would also be made public so people can weigh the costs versus the benefits.

The rule changes remove the idea of using potential climate change as a factor in deciding how to act. The Endangered Species Act would no longer allow climate change predictions that are projected 70 or 80 years into the future as part of the equation. 

Kaul said that undermines the purpose of the Endangered Species Act. 

“The Trump Administration’s rules would dramatically weaken current protections and reduce federal Endangered Species Act enforcement and consultation, putting these endangered species and their habitats at risk of extinction,” Kaul wrote in a statement. 

He is bothered that the new rules “inject economic considerations into the Act’s science-driven, species-focused analyses,” and “push the responsibility for protecting imperiled species and habitats onto the state.”

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement earlier this year that changes bring the Endangered Species Act into the 21st Century. 

“An effectively administered act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation,” Bernhardt said. 

Kaul said Wisconsin is one of 20 states suing over the changes to the act.