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Bird Species at New Risk if Endangered Species Act is Changed

The piping plover population in the Great Lakes states is considered endangered, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (William Picard/freeimages.com)
The piping plover population in the Great Lakes states is considered endangered, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (William Picard/freeimages.com)
July 25, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Bird enthusiasts and conservation groups say the Trump administration's plans to change the Endangered Species Act would make it more difficult to recover threatened or endangered birds.

The proposal, announced last week by the Interior and Commerce departments, would end the practice of extending similar protections to species regardless of whether they are listed as "endangered" or "threatened."

Steve Holmer, vice president for policy at the American Bird Conservancy, said those distinctions matter, especially in the case of the piping plover, which is considered endangered around the Great Lakes and threatened in other areas of the country.

"It's a very charismatic bird that nests on beaches," he said, "but now, under this rule, it could be easier to remove some of that habitat because they wouldn't look at it one project at a time. They would try to bury it within the whole entire habitat."

Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt described the proposal as an effort to fulfill President Donald Trump's executive order to scale back government regulation. Holmer said he'll make his concerns known during the 60-day public comment period through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and another government website.

Holmer said the proposed change to list species as "threatened" instead of "endangered" would cause delays in providing protection, and also would affect other birds including the marbled murrelet in the Pacific Northwest, which has had its habitat threatened by logging.

"Under this proposal, it would be easier to remove some of the murrelet's habitat," he said, "and our concern is that if we just keep chipping away at it, drip by drip, eventually there won't be enough left for the species to survive and recover."

Holmer said a 2016 report by the American Bird Conservancy shows 78 percent of mainland birds listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act have populations that are now stable, increasing, or have recovered enough to be de-listed.

Public comments can be made online at regulations.gov and the proposal from U.S. Fish and Wildlife is at fws.gov.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - IL