The federal government has proposed a new rule that would allow more flexibility in estimating and monitoring potential impacts to protected species. The rule would allow use of “surrogate” information when making decisions about projects that would kill or harm endangered or threatened wildlife. Examples of “surrogate” factors include habitat loss, ecological conditions, or impacts to similar species. Such information could replace assessments and monitoring of direct impacts on a listed species when logistically difficult, time-consuming, or expensive, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Some environmental conservation groups are concerned that the proposed rule would allow federal agencies to use surrogates instead of conducting a more direct analysis. “We would all concede there are a narrow set of circumstances where it is nearly impossible to come up with a meaningful incidental take statement,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director for the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. But the rule, he said, is “going to encourage them to take the easy way out.”


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