The Topeka shiner, Canada lynx and prairie fringed orchid now have a legal advocate in Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who on Tuesday joined an ongoing court challenge to President Donald Trump’s rollbacks of the Endangered Species Act.
Minnesota will now be one of 20 states and the city of New York suing the Trump administration in a federal case filed last month in the Northern District of California. The coalition is challenging actions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service that for the first time allow officials to make economic considerations when determining whether to protect certain species.
The coalition is calling unlawful new rules that restrict the circumstances under which species can be listed as threatened, expand exemptions for designating critical habitats and depart from practices of providing the same protections to threatened species as those listed as endangered. The policy changes in question also allow federal officials to disregard possible climate change-related effects when calculating potential dangers to wildlife species.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra — a longtime Ellison ally dating back to their time together in Congress’ progressive caucus — is leading the lawsuit, one of more than 60 such cases filed by his office over Trump rollbacks of Obama-era regulations. Ellison has attached Minnesota to several such challenges, including Trump’s diverting funds to build a border wall.
“My job is to protect Minnesotans, especially when the federal government won’t. Every Minnesotan loves our state’s natural beauty: protecting our natural environment defines us as Minnesotans,” Ellison said in a statement Tuesday. “The Trump Administration’s undermining of the Endangered Species Act is not only unlawful, it’s un-Minnesotan.”
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist, has defended the new environmental policies as an important refresh to a Nixon-era law that the Trump administration has seen as overly restrictive. The law has come under attack in Western states by the oil and gas industry, farmers, loggers and ranchers.