US wildlife boss departs after stirring fears on species law

    Federal officials are extending legal protection to the eastern massasauga rattlesnake.

    The head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is stepping down after a 16-month tenure in which he proposed broad changes to rules governing protections for thousands of plant and animal species.

    Spokesman Gavin Shire said Thursday that Greg Sheehan will step down next week to return to his family and home in Utah.

    Sheehan was put into a newly created deputy director post last June. He led the agency in the absence of a permanent appointee from President Donald Trump.

    The agency last month proposed ending the practice of giving automatic protections to threatened plants and animals. That's alarmed wildlife advocates who fear a weakening of the Endangered Species Act.

    Shire says Deputy Operations Director Jim Kurth will lead the agency pending another appointment.

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