WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 — The Center for Biological Diversity and more than 160 other conservation organizations today demanded that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke withdraw his department’s proposal to rescind 40-year-old safeguards for wildlife protected as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

Today’s letter to Zinke was signed by groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, the Humane Society of the United States and Sierra Club.

“With this appalling proposal, the Trump administration is declaring war on America’s imperiled wildlife,” said Stephanie Kurose, endangered species policy specialist at the Center. “Threatened species urgently need protection, not excuses and inaction. Trump is erasing our natural heritage, and it’s a disgrace.”

Since 1978 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proactively provided the full protection of the Endangered Species Act to all threatened species, unless the agency issues a special rule on a case-by-case basis.

The Interior Department’s new proposal to rescind the “blanket rule” rule would reverse this process. If it’s finalized, threatened wildlife by default would receive no protections unless the Service issues a species-specific rule granting additional protections. The proposal would apply to new “threatened” listings.

“We are gravely concerned that rescission of the blanket rule will further slow the [Endangered Species Act] listing process, invite political interference, ultimately provide less or even no protections for threatened species, and shroud government decisions from public view and scrutiny,” today’s letter stated.

The letter also noted that rescinding the blanket rule will expose the Act’s science-based processes to political maneuvering and interference — already a persistent problem among federal agencies. The result will be an increased risk of extinction for some of the nation’s most beloved animals.

“The Trump administration’s effort to sabotage the Endangered Species Act is a contemptible act of environmental vandalism,” said Kurose. “Americans will see cherished wildlife driven to the brink by a shortsighted, unscientific policy designed to  benefit corporate polluters.”