(NBC News) The beloved bald eagle, grizzly bear and loggerhead sea turtle were all saved from extinction by the Endangered Species Act.
Now, the decades old law faces a threat of its own. The Trump administration is moving to dramatically weaken the law, which protects more than 1,600 hundred species in the United States and its territories.
The move would end blanket protections for threatened species, allow the government to consider cost when deciding whether to protect them, and could allow authorities to disregard the impact of climate change on endangered animals.
The Secretary of Commerce says the changes are in line with the White House mandate of "easing the regulatory burden on the American public...without sacrificing our species protection and recovery goals."
Proponents, including cattle ranchers, say the changes are merely aimed at making the law more efficient.
"Our guys care for animals professionally. In most cases if you talk to a rancher, they are the experts on the species in their back yard they are the conservationists in that environment," says Ethan Lane of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "Its incredibly naive that they would want anything other than the best possible resource conditions on the land."
Critics argue the move is only about money, and say the big winners will be big industries like oil and gas, ranchers and developers.
"All these rules are about is making it easier for corporations to move faster, not take wildlife or nature into consideration so they can make more money faster, and it will be devastating for wildlife," says Corry Westbrook of the Endangered Species Coalition.
Colorado is among 17 states, as well as the District of Columbia and New York City, that filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the new rules.
Read more: https://nbcnews.to/2ls2ThZ