For perhaps the last time before President Barack Obama leaves office, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed suit against the federal government for what he considers federal overreach, this time in an endangered species matter.
One rule revises the definition of “destruction or adverse modification” of habitat.
Under the old definition, habitat destruction involved “a direct or indirect alteration that appreciably diminishes the value of critical habitat for both the survival and recovery of a listed species.”
But courts found that the definition was wanting. Thus, the new definition holds that destruction is anything that diminishes “the conservation of a listed species.”
Another rule clarifies the procedures and standards used for designating critical habitat.
Federal officials say the changes are meant to increase transparency.
“The Endangered Species Act is the last safety net between our most at-risk species and extinction, and, as such, we want to do everything we can to make sure it functions efficiently and effectively,” Gary Frazer, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s assistant director for ecological services, said in February, when the rules were finalized.
But the suit says the changes would allow the government “to exercise virtually unlimited power to declare land and water critical habitat for endangered and threatened species, regardless of whether that land or water is occupied or unoccupied by the species, regardless of the presence or absence of the physical or biological features necessary to sustain the species, and regardless of whether the land or water is actually essential to the conservation of the species habitat protections for endangered species.”
Whatever else you can say about this strategy of making Texas federal district court judges our lords and masters, it has had its share of success. As the Trump regime is unlikely to do any policymaking that will make Texas want to sue it (though all bets are off for California), this may be Ken Paxton’s last hurrah, modulo the 2018 and 2020 elections. The Chron has more.