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Conservation Groups Slam Nevada AG's Lawsuit to Limit Habitat Protections

The Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly is one of 22 endangered species in Nevada. (USFWS)
The Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly is one of 22 endangered species in Nevada. (USFWS)
December 1, 2016

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- Conservation groups are slamming a new lawsuit brought by attorneys general from 18 states, including Nevada's Adam Laxalt, that would weaken habitat protection for endangered species.

The lawsuit against several federal agencies challenges rules enacted over the past several years as part of the Endangered Species Act which allow the agencies to designate areas of critical habitat for endangered species in areas where they don't currently live, in order to give the animal or plant room to expand and recover.

Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity, called the lawsuit the first salvo in an assault on the Endangered Species Act.

"The mindset of the Republican attorneys general is simply win a victory and weaken the act across the board so when we have a species that gets in the way of more oil and gas drilling on public lands, it will just be easier down the road,” Hartl said.

Nevada is home to 22 species of endangered plants and animals. Attorney General Laxalt called the regulations in question an overreach of federal authority that could have adverse effects on states and business.

Hartl said the Center for Biological Diversity will join the lawsuit on the side of the government in order to counteract any attempt by the Trump administration to settle the suit and rescind the rules.

"This lawsuit is sort of the first attack that the states are waging now against the Endangered Species Act,” Hartl said.

He emphasized that the rules do not affect development on private or state lands unless they require a federal permit.



Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV