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caption: A pygmy rabbit, one of Washington state's federally endangered animals.
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A pygmy rabbit, one of Washington state's federally endangered animals.
Credit: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife/Kourtney Stonehouse

Washington state sues Trump over endangered species

Seventeen states, including Washington state, are suing the Trump Administration in attempt to keep the Endangered Species Act in place.

Washington D. C. and New York City are also part of the federal lawsuit, which was filed in Northern California on Wednesday.

The Trump Administration is making what it calls improvements to the Endangered Species Act, with two of the changes taking effect September 26 and a third in October. The changes, collectively, will make it more difficult to add species to the endangered list and limit which animals have critical habitat set aside.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the other attorneys sued to ask the courts to block the changes from being implemented.

Ferguson said the animals that face threats due to climate change are particularly vulnerable, since it would be harder to get them listed under the new rules.

"For example, wolverines are currently under consideration for federal protections," he said. "The new rules will make it harder for the wolverines to get those protections. There are less than 20 wild wolverines in Washington state. Less than 20."

Washington state is home to 49 federally endangered plants and animals, including pygmy rabbits, Southern Resident killer whales and Chinook salmon.

The change to federal law will also raise the bar for what animals get critical habitat, and allow financial reasons to be factors that could deny protection to a plant or animal. The rewritten ESA will, for the first time, allow officials to consider how much it would cost to save a species.

The lawsuit is Washington's 50th against the Trump Administration, with 26 of those lawsuits pertaining to the environment.

The Department of the Interior, which issued the changes, says in a statement: "These regulatory changes will recover more imperiled species facing extinction. We will see them in court, and we will be steadfast in our implementation of this important act."