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The Trump administration is finalizing major changes Monday to the way it enforces the landmark Endangered Species Act, in a move that it says will reduce regulatory burdens but critics charge will drive more creatures to extinction.
The administration was making public a final version of a rule overhauling the way the federal government handles protections for plants and animals at risk of extinction. Information about the rule was obtained by The Associated Press beforehand.
The Endangered Species Act is credited with helping save the bald eagle, California condor and scores of other animals and plants from extinction since President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1973.
The Trump administration says the changes will make regulation more efficient and less burdensome while preserving protections for wildlife.
At least 10 attorneys general joined conservation groups in protesting an early draft of the changes, saying they put more wildlife at greater risk of extinction.
A draft version of the rule released last year would end blanket protections for animals newly deemed threatened, allow federal authorities for the first time to consider the economic cost of protecting a particular species, and could let authorities disregard impacts from climate change, one of the largest threats to habitat.
The Endangered Species Act currently protects more than 1,600 species in the United States and its territories.
A United Nations report warned in May that more than 1 million plants and animals globally face extinction, some within decades, owning to human development, climate change and other threats. The report called the rate of species loss a record.