Attorney General Ellison joins lawsuit protecting Endangered Species Act
Ellison: Trump Administration’s undermining of the Act ‘is not only unlawful, it’s un-Minnesotan’
ESA currently protects the Topeka Shiner, Canada Lynx, and Prairie Fringed Orchid, among other Minnesota species
October 22, 2019 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that he has joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general and the City of New York that is suing the Trump Administration for rollbacks of the Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit, first filed on September 25, 2019 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, argues that the decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to finalize three rules that undermine the key requirements and purpose of the Endangered Species Act is unlawful.
“My job is to protect Minnesotans, especially when the federal government won’t. Every Minnesotan loves our state’s natural beauty: protecting our natural environment defines us as Minnesotans. The Trump Administration’s undermining of the Endangered Species Act is not only unlawful, it’s un-Minnesotan,” Attorney General Ellison said.
For more than 45 years, the Endangered Species Act has protected thousands of iconic and threatened species, including the bald eagle, California condor, grizzly bear, and humpback whale. Several Minnesota species — such as the Topeka Shiner, Canada Lynx, and Prairie Fringed Orchid — are currently listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA.
Enacted under the Nixon Administration in 1973, the ESA is intended “to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.” 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.
In the lawsuit, the coalition challenges the rules as arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, unauthorized under the Endangered Species Act, and unlawful under the National Environmental Policy Act. Of specific concern are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service actions to:
- Inject economic considerations into the Endangered Species Act’s science-driven, species-focused analyses;
- Restrict the circumstances under which species can be listed as threatened;
- Expand the Act’s narrow exemptions for designating critical habitats and limit the circumstances under which a habitat would be designated, especially where climate change poses a threat;
- Reduce consultation and analyses required before federal agency action;
- Radically depart from the longstanding, conservation-based agency policy and practice of providing the same level of protection to threatened species afforded to endangered species, which is necessary to prevent a species from becoming endangered;
- Push the responsibility for protecting imperiled species and habitats onto the state, detracting from the states’ efforts to carry out their own programs and imposing significant costs; and
- Exclude analysis of and public input on the rules' significant environmental impacts.
Attorney General Ellison is joined in the lawsuit by Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, who also joined the suit today; by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who are leading the suit; and by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington; and by the City of New York.
A copy of the amended lawsuit is on the website of California Attorney General Becerra.