The US lawyers rolling back wildlife protection one species at a time
Backed by conservative funders – and with contacts inside Washington – Pacific Legal Foundation are weakening safeguards for animals bit by bit
As political officials at the US Department of the Interior were settling into their new jobs in April 2017, a conservative lawyer named Jonathan Wood started a campaign of emails and calls over a pair of petitions he had filed on behalf of cattle ranchers and business interests.
The petitions asked the department to roll back a key regulation under the Endangered Species Act. The regulation, known as the blanket 4(d) rule, provides threatened species with strong protections, but is also reviled by ranchers, mining interests and developers. Like his clients, Wood, a senior lawyer at the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), wanted to get rid of it.
Ranchers oppose the law because it can limit their ability to access grazing resources on public and private lands and control predators like grizzly bears and grey wolves.