The attorneys general from 17 U.S. states have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over rule changes that weakened the Endangered Species Act.
Led by California, Maryland, and Massachusetts, the coalition of states filed the suit Wednesday in a federal court in San Francisco. It follows a lawsuit filed last month by seven environmental and animal rights groups.
"As we face the unprecedented threat of a climate emergency, now is the time to strengthen our planet's biodiversity, not to destroy it," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. "The only thing we want to see extinct are the beastly policies of the Trump administration putting our ecosystems in critical danger."
The changes introduced by the Trump administration include requiring consideration of economic cost when deciding whether to save a species from extinction. The law currently says the cost to logging or oil interests will have no bearing on whether an animal or other species deserves protection.
The revised regulations would also end blanket protection for a species listed as threatened — a designation that is one step away from declaring it endangered — and reduce some wildlife habitat.
Conservation and wildlife groups call the changes U.S. President Donald Trump's gift to logging, ranching, and oil industries, saying they take a bulldozer through protections for America's most vulnerable wildlife.
But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has defended the changes as fitting "within the president's mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public without sacrificing our species' protection and recovery goals."
Environmentalists credit the 1973 Endangered Species Act with saving numerous animals, plants, and other species from extinction.
About 1,600 species are currently protected by the act and the administration says streamlining regulations is the best way to ensure they will stay protected.
Republican President Richard Nixon signed the act into law in 1973 as part of the response to the new environmental awareness sweeping the country in the early 1970s, which included Earth Day and the Clear Water and Air acts.