By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - Conservationists decried a proposal on Monday by U.S. wildlife and marine animal managers to tweak rules tied to the federal Endangered Species Act, saying the plans would place "crippling" impediments to citizens petitioning to save imperiled creatures.
Under the proposal submitted for public comment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, those petitioning for such safeguards would have to use data from state wildlife agencies prior to submitting requests.
The changes "would provide greater clarity to the public and states on what information would best inform the evaluation of a species' status and result in better coordination with state wildlife agencies, which often have unique information and insights," the two agencies said in a statement.
But Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the proposal seeks to stall or even prohibit protections for endangered creatures.
"The proposed changes to federal regulations add additional, fairly substantial burdens on petitioners, particularly citizen-scientists trying to stop a species from dying out. The proposal tries to shut that down and cut the public out," he said.
Measures floated during the 60-day public comment period include barring petitions tied to more than one creature and requiring advance notice of the petition to states where such species are found, said Greenwald.
U.S. wildlife and marine life managers said retooling the regulations would "incentivize" voluntary conservation efforts tied to the nation's hallmark conservation law.
"The protection and restoration of America's proud natural heritage would not be possible without the Endangered Species Act and the close collaboration among states, landowners and federal agencies that the act promotes," U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Walsh)