Stronger Endangered Species Act Protections Proposed by USFWS, NOAA
Three newly proposed regulations from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would reverse rules made during Donald Trump’s presidency that removed protections under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a reinstatement of a regulation that gives protections to species classified as threatened, the classification just below endangered.
It is also proposing regulations that make it harder to remove species that are covered by the Endangered Species Act, asserting that listing, delisting or reclassifying species should be done without referencing potential economic impacts.
The Biden administration has also proposed improving conservation discussions between agencies.
“The Endangered Species Act is the nation’s foremost conservation law that prevents the extinction of species and supports their recovery,” Martha Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director, said in a statement. “These proposed revisions reaffirm our commitment to conserving America’s wildlife and ensuring the Endangered Species Act works for both species and people.”
Among the changes are a requirement for federal agencies to consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service for actions that could impact species classified as threatened or endangered by the Act, as The Associated Press reported.
These changes reverse actions of the Trump administration, which claimed that the scope of the Act interfered with economic growth, The New York Times reported.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Endangered Species Act has prevented extinction for 99% of species under its protection. The Act was established in December 1973.
“Through the Endangered Species Act, we take a science-based approach to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats,” said Janet Coit, NOAA Fisheries assistant administrator. “These proposed regulatory updates will help ensure the Act continues to serve as an effective conservation tool in the face of continued challenges, including biodiversity loss and climate change.”
The latest proposals follow previous actions by the current administration to reverse rollbacks made during the Trump administration. In June 2022, the Biden administration rescinded a 2020 regulation that established a definition for “habitat” for reference during critical habitat designations. In July 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services reversed a December 2020 regulation that revised the consideration process for excluding areas from critical habitat designations.
The newly proposed regulations are subject to public comment starting June 22 to August 21, 2023.