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Wolves. Polar Bears. Even the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl.
Efforts to expand drilling and mining, to give local authorities greater say over public lands management and even Trump's signature campaign promise – the expansion of a wall on the southern border – threatens a number of animals whose habitats are under duress.
"The safety net for wildlife in this country, which had been the federal government, has been almost completely unraveled," said Bob Dreher, associate director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Obama administration.
Trump administration officials noted that the nearly 25.6 million acres of public lands leased for oil and gas is the lowest total since 1991. Expanding energy development not only will create jobs but also will strengthen national security by lessening dependence on foreign countries whose governments are hostile or unstable, they said.
Officials said the steps they're taking are not only legal, reasonable and won't endanger wildlife but also emphasize the needs of communities and tribes rather than the orders of federal bureaucrats.
"We are also working to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens without sacrificing environmental outcomes," Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told senators at his confirmation hearing last month. "In doing so, we’re taking actions to appropriately respect the regulatory role of the states."
Here are animals snared in the policy debate:
The administration's decision to delist the predator in March drew howls of protest from environmental groups who argued that the species cannot survive in the long term without the protections of the Endangered Species Act.
The animal had all but disappeared in what is now the Lower 48 states by the early 1900s.
"Today, the wolf roams free in nine Western states and is fit for delisting," Bernhardt said in defending the decision.
“The facts are clear and indisputable – the gray wolf no longer meets the definition of a threatened or endangered species," Bernhardt said in a statement. "Today the wolf is thriving on its vast range and it is reasonable to conclude it will continue to do so in the future."
Collette Adkins, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, has a different view: “This disgusting proposal would be a death sentence for gray wolves across the country."
Greater sage grouse
The Obama administration helped broker a deal with Western states, hunters, ranchers and conservation groups to protect the charismatic bird known for its colorful mating ritual, but the Trump administration lifted some of the restrictions on drilling on public lands.
"Replacing a science-based agreement with a more favorable plan for oil and gas ignores Western values, undermines collaborative conservation and may push sagebrush wildlife to the brink," the National Audubon Society said.
The amended plan has the backing of a bipartisan group of Western governors, including Democrat Kate Brown of Oregon, who sought more input than the original deal gave them.
“Balancing sage grouse habitat protection and economic development requires mitigation of negative impacts," she said. "This agreement is a critical step that marks a shift away from planning toward active conservation and landscape management to protect this iconic species."
North Atlantic right whale
The Trump administration's decision last year to move ahead with seismic testing off the East Coast imperils one of the world’s most endangered large whale species, environmental advocates said.
Seismic air gun blasting is used to determine the size and location of oil and gas deposits under the ocean. The Trump administration made offshore drilling a key part of its American Energy Dominance agenda.
"The Trump administration’s rash decision to harm marine mammals hundreds of thousands of times in the hope of finding oil and gas is shortsighted and dangerous," said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. "Seismic air gun blasting can harm everything from tiny zooplankton and fish to dolphins and whales."
The administration cast expanded offshore drilling as an economic and security issue.
"Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks," then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said last year.
The resource-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an attractive target for oil companies.
It also is the home of polar bears, walruses and porcupine caribou who face increased threats by the administration's push to open drilling in the refuge, opponents of the plan said.
The refuge has been off-limits to drilling. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, wrote a provision to open the area, and it was included in the Republican tax bill passed in late 2017.
The measure, signed into law by Trump, would open a 1.5 million-acre coastal section of the refuge to drilling.
Murkowski's office said the drilling would occur "in a tiny sliver of the non-wilderness portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, on Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf, and in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. These areas collectively hold almost 35 billion barrels of conventional oil and could refill the critical 800-mile-long Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which is currently running two-thirds empty."
Several Democratic senators, led by Delaware's Tom Carper, asked Interior Secretary Bernhardt to delay any leases until the public has more time to comment on a draft environmental impact statement on oil and gas development.
"The Refuge is one of the last truly wild places on Earth,” they wrote in the letter to Bernhardt in January. "Much of its wildlife is as sensitive and imperiled as it is iconic."
Polar bears and other animals that live there won a temporary reprieve March 29 when a a federal judge ruled that the administration lacked the authority to overturn Obama's decisions to withdraw oil and gas leases in parts of that area.
Dunes sagebrush lizard
This small, light-brown, spiny denizen of the Southwest is one of dozens of animals environmental advocates petitioned the Interior Department to be given Endangered Species Act protections.
They also asked that the lizard’s habitat in southeastern New Mexico and neighboring Texas be granted special protection because of threats from oil and gas drilling.
There's a large battle being waged over the act. For decades, species that were close to being listed enjoyed protections similar to those that guarded species officially listed as endangered. The Trump administration proposed to change the provision, known as the "blanket rule," so such "threatened" species would not get those safeguards unless it was proved they needed them.
"The blanket rule reflexively prohibits known habitat management practices, such as selective forest thinning and water management, that might ultimately benefit a threatened species," Bernhardt wrote in a column for The Washington Post last year when he was deputy secretary. "We need creative, incentive-based conservation, but that becomes impossible with the current blurring of the lines between the two distinctions."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which also has jurisdiction over endangered species, has no blanket rule.
Dreher, the former Obama official who is senior vice president for conservation programs at Defenders of Wildlife, said it would be a harmful move.
“It may not sound like much, but the default will be no protection instead of protection," he said. "And with drastically reduced budgets and all the pressure of the bureaucracy in favor if development decision, it makes it really likely that threatened species will not get the level of protection they need."
The president's expanded border wall is aimed at preventing people from illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the USA.
It could also disrupt ecosystems and migratory patterns of fragile species, Dreher said.
Cactus ferruginous pygmy owls, for example, won't fly higher than 10 feet and won't cross open space because they fear attacks by hawks. Building a wall and clearing the land on either side of the wall would create an impassible barrier in the middle of that population, he said. That would endanger the owls further by making them more vulnerable to diseases because they could no longer breed with their genetic cousins across the border.
"It heightens the risk that they will go extinct on both sides of the border," Dreher said.
To learn more
U.S.-Mexico border: Here's where Trump's border barriers will be built in 2019
Managing the land: Congress sends Trump lands bill that would protect more than 2 million acres
Editor's note: Original story noted that Bernhardt was acting Interior Secretary. He has since been confirmed
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: In push to be 'energy dominant,' Trump puts squeeze on polar bears, whales and sage grouse, critics say