For the second time this week, the Trump administration took a swipe at the Endangered Species Act by limiting the definition of “critical habitat” for imperiled species and mandating that agencies exclude areas of habitat when the costs of designating them outweigh the benefits, contradicting the law. This rule would further erode one of the nation’s most effective and most popular laws. On Tuesday, the administration finalized a separate rule that also limits new habitat designations.
“If there’s one thing this chaotic administration has been consistent about, it is its lawlessness and willingness to trash this planet,” said David Henkin, Earthjustice attorney. “On the way out the door, the Trump administration tosses more handouts to its favored polluting industries — drillers, miners, and industrial clear-cutting operations — at the expense of wildlife facing extinction. This is counter to the reason we have the Endangered Species Act, it’s not based in science, and it’s illegal. So we will be calling on the incoming Biden-Harris administration to begin the process of fixing this horrible rule.”
Protection of habitat is central to the conservation of imperiled species. The Act’s purpose is to conserve “the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend,” as well as the protecting and recovering endangered species and threatened species themselves. Designation of critical habitat is a key tool authorized by the Act to ensure habitat, including unoccupied habitat needed for recovery, is conserved.