Monday, January 18, 2021

On way out, feds make environmental rollbacks: cut spotted-owl habitat, opened conservation lands to development, etc.

A northern spotted owl chases a mouse in Oregon's Deschutes National Forest. (Don Ryan, The Associated Press)

"The Trump administration has gone on a spree of environmental rollbacks in its final days, loosening standards for equipment Americans use to heat their homes, reducing protected habitat for the northern spotted owl and opening conservation lands in California and Utah to development," report Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post.

"Every president rushes to lock in his agenda before leaving office: Bill Clinton protected tens of millions of acres of national forest from logging just before stepping down, and Barack Obama finalized a slew of rules on everything from energy efficiency to the disposal of toxic waste by dental offices. But Trump has managed to usher through an unusually large number of energy and environmental policies in just a single term, according to a Washington Post analysis, and has finalized more than two dozen since he lost the election in November." Several will help fossil-fuel, logging and mining industries.

The moves set up a clash with the incoming administration of Joe Biden, the reporters write: "As the president-elect gears up to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and put more land off limits to development, his aides will have to spend months unwinding these policies unless congressional Democrats or federal judges overturn them."

Among other things in the past week, the administration has reduced critical habitation for the northern spotted owl, which faces extinction, by 3.4 million acres. "Fish and Wildlife Service officials determined last month that the Pacific Northwest’s iconic bird should be upgraded from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act. But the agency declined to do that, citing resource constraints," the Post reports. Also, the administration overturned an Obama-era rule that required oil, gas and coal companies to pay more federal royalties; "and approved a four-lane highway through Utah’s Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, which had been permanently protected as a wildlife reserve 25 years ago."

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