Attorney General Becerra Announces Minnesota and Wisconsin Join Lawsuit Fighting Rollbacks of Endangered Species Act

Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today welcomed Minnesota and Wisconsin to the coalition of now 20 attorneys general and the City of New York suing the Trump Administration for rollbacks of the Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit, first filed on September 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, argues that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service's decision to finalize three rules that undermine the key requirements and purpose of the Endangered Species Act is unlawful. Attorney General Becerra leads the lawsuit with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

"The addition of Minnesota and Wisconsin to our coalition fighting to maintain Endangered Species Act protections is welcome news," said Attorney General Becerra. "For over 45 years the ESA has protected thousands of species that are endangered or threatened. These species are a key part of our ecosystem. As we face the unprecedented threat of a climate emergency, now is the time to strengthen our planet’s biodiversity, not destroy it."

"My job is to protect Minnesotans, especially when the federal government won’t," said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. "Every Minnesotan loves our state’s natural beauty: protecting our natural environment defines us as Minnesotans. The Trump Administration’s undermining of the Endangered Species Act is not only unlawful, it’s un-Minnesotan."

"The Trump Administration’s decision to adopt rules weakening the Endangered Species Act is unwarranted and unlawful. As the effects of climate change put more species at risk, we should be strengthening our conservation efforts, not undermining them," said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul.

For over 45 years, the Endangered Species Act has protected thousands of iconic and threatened species, including the bald eagle, California condor, grizzly bear, and humpback whale. Enacted under the Nixon Administration in 1973, the ESA is intended "to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost." The Trump Administration’s rules would dramatically weaken current protections and reduce federal Endangered Species Act enforcement and consultation, putting these endangered species and their habitats at risk of extinction.

In California, there are over 300 species listed as endangered or threatened under the Act – more than any other mainland state. Additionally, California has tens of millions of acres of federal public lands subject to consultation requirements under the Endangered Species Act.

In the lawsuit, the coalition challenges the rules as arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, unauthorized under the Endangered Species Act, and unlawful under the National Environmental Policy Act. Of specific concern are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service actions to:

  • Inject economic considerations into the Endangered Species Act’s science-driven, species-focused analyses;
  • Restrict the circumstances under which species can be listed as threatened;
  • Expand the Act’s narrow exemptions for designating critical habitats and limit the circumstances under which a habitat would be designated, especially where climate change poses a threat;
  • Reduce consultation and analyses required before federal agency action;
  • Radically depart from the longstanding, conservation-based agency policy and practice of providing the same level of protection to threatened species afforded to endangered species, which is necessary to prevent a species from becoming endangered;
  • Push the responsibility for protecting imperiled species and habitats onto the state, detracting from the states’ efforts to carry out their own programs and imposing significant costs; and
  • Exclude analysis of and public input on the rules' significant environmental impacts.

Attorney General Becerra has taken strong steps to protect our wildlife and habitats and has doggedly fought the Trump Administration’s attempts to roll back protections. In September 2018, Attorney General Becerra filed a comment letter on the Trump Administration’s plan to gut the Endangered Species Act, which was followed by a strong statement issued when the rule was finalized in August 2019. Also in September 2018, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw protections for America’s migratory birds, by rolling back provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Just two months later, the California Department of Justice and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife released a legal advisory regarding the MBTA affirming that, despite any federal reinterpretation of the MBTA by the federal government, California would continue to enforce robust protections for migratory birds.

A copy of the amended complaint can be found here.

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