The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently updated the Endangered Species Act, which will result in bringing much needed water to agriculture and growers in California’s Central Valley.
Under President Donald Trump’s administration, radical Environmental Protection Act regulations have been thoroughly reviewed, relaxed, and some overturned.
Previous rules were written to protect hundreds of species “judged to be under pressure,” rather than actually threatened. And non-indigenous species like the Delta Smelt will no longer take immediate priority over water delivery to humans and agriculture.
The changes will also allow the Department of the Interior to review and publish the economic impacts of whether to list a species as endangered or threatened. And they will serve to bring balance and provide protection for endangered species and the businesses on federal and private land. The goal is to allows local economies to thrive while protecting endangered species.
Headlines threatened, Endangered Species Act: Trump administration seeks to limit protections.
Notably, as this process was underway, the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom took their own shot over Trump’s bow with Senate Bill 1, the California Environmental, Public Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019. “This bill establishes specified minimum federal environmental, public health, and labor standards as state baselines in the event the Congress or President repeals or weakens corresponding federal standards, and prohibits the corresponding California standards from falling below those baselines. In the event that new federal standards fall below the baseline, this bill allows private citizens to enforce state standards,” bill analysis says.
What the bill would really do is send billions of gallons of water out to the Pacific Ocean ostensibly to save more fish, while farmers and ranchers were starved for water, even in maximum rainfall years.
The Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources were operating under a biological opinion Fish and Wildlife issued on December 15, 2008 under the Obama administration, and a BiOp National Marine Fisheries Service issued on June 4, 2009, for long-term operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. This was updated.
On August 2, 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources, requested the reinitiation of Endangered Species Act consultation on the coordinated long-term operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.
In October 2018, President Trump signed a memorandum on “Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West” which included guidance and direction on the process. (DOI news release) In the President’s memorandum, he says “Decades of uncoordinated, piecemeal regulatory actions have diminished the ability of our Federal infrastructure, however, to deliver water and power in an efficient, cost‑effective way,” also warning that unless addressed right now, “fragmented policies and fragmented regulation of water infrastructure will continue to produce inefficiencies, unnecessary burdens, and conflict among the Federal Government, States, tribes, and local public agencies that deliver water to their citizenry.”
The Obama administration weaponized National Marine Fisheries Service, which according to some federal government insiders, is a bunch of environmental zealots within the Department of Commerce, trying to screw up water plans that benefit humans.
California Globe spoke with Paul Souza, Pacific Southwest Regional Fish and Wildlife Director, in August about updating the 2008 Biological Opinions on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Long Term Operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, known as NOAA, undertook a second independent scientific peer review of the analyses in their draft Biological Opinions. Both agencies previously carried out an independent scientific peer review of an earlier draft of their analyses this spring.
In addition to the final joint regulations, and perhaps even more crucial, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a separate revision rescinding its “blanket rule” of the Endangered Species Act, which had automatically given threatened species the same protections as endangered species unless otherwise specified.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has never employed such a blanket rule, so the new regulations bring the two agencies into alignment. The change impacts only future threatened species’ listings or reclassifications from endangered to threatened status and does not apply to species already listed as threatened.
The regulation changes also clarified that it’s appropriate to “delist” a species when it does not meet the definition of an endangered species or a threatened species.
“In the future, when we list or reclassify a species as a threatened species, we will consider whether a species‑specific 4(d) rule is appropriate for that species in question. This is something we’ve been doing for about the past decade, and it aligns our practice with the National Marine Fishery Service,” Fish and Wildlife said in a press statement.
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