WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2018 — A total of 273 leading conservation scientists from around the country today urged the Trump administration to withdraw proposed changes to the regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act.

The scientists’ letter addresses three proposed rules put out for public comment by the administration that, they note, “will fundamentally undermine the ability of science and scientists to protect our nation’s biodiversity.”

“If enacted, these rules will be an absolute disaster for efforts to save species from extinction,” said Dr. Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke professor of conservation ecology at Duke University. “With humanity’s footprint ever growing and climate change looming, we need the Endangered Species Act more than ever. These rule changes are 180 degrees in the wrong direction.”

One proposed rule would strip threatened species of protections afforded for the past 40 years. Another rule would introduce economic considerations into decisions about whether species are protected and limits designation of protected critical habitat. A third proposal would make it easier to destroy that habitat.

“These rules would roll back decades of progress toward protecting endangered species and the habitats they so desperately need to survive and recover,” said Dr. John Vucetich, a professor of wildlife conservation at Michigan Technological University. “The Trump administration claims the rules are designed to modernize the Endangered Species Act, but from a scientific perspective, it’s clear they would severely weaken protections for our most vulnerable wildlife.”

The letter notes that the rules “will do nothing to further conservation of endangered species and much to undermine it.” The scientists express particular concern over the proposal to weaken protections for species’ critical habitat.

The proposal would fundamentally redefine rules meant to protect places where imperiled wildlife lives. Under the new approach, such rules would apply only to actions that affect a species’ entire habitat at once. Particularly for species with large critical habitats, that would mean most destructive projects will be allowed to proceed.

“There is simply no way to protect endangered species without protecting the places they live,” said Pimm. “These rule changes will allow species to be driven extinct through a process of death by a thousand cuts, which fatally undermines the law’s fundamental purpose of saving species from extinction.”

In addition to Dr. Pimm and Dr. Vucetich, the letter includes many notable conservation scientists, including Dr. Peter Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden; Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, George Mason University; Dr. Lynn Maguire, Duke University; Dr. Reed Noss, visiting scholar at Duke University; Dr. David Inouye, University of Maryland; and many others.