Today, the Biden Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) began the process to repeal and revise the Endangered Species Act regulations promulgated during the Trump administration that weakened protections for habitat that endangered and threatened wildlife need to survive.
The administration began two new rulemakings rescinding some of the Trump rollbacks to the regulations that enforce the Endangered Species Act. The first rulemaking reverses the Trump regulations that imposed a new habitat definition which would make it harder for NMFS and FWS to designate as critical habitat degraded or currently unoccupied areas needed for species’ recovery as the climate changes. The second rulemaking reverses a Trump regulation that limits FWS’s discretion to protect essential habitat over industry objections and removes the presumption favoring critical habitat designations on federal lands, moves that contradict the legal foundations of the Endangered Species Act. Both critical habitat rules were finalized during the final days of the Trump administration.
The Biden administration is still engaged in litigation filed by Earthjustice regarding the Trump administration’s 2019 revisions to the Endangered Species Act regulations. All three of the Trump rules remain in place during the ongoing litigation and rulemaking processes. The two habitat rulemakings begin with 30-day public comment periods to help inform the Service’s final rules.
The following is a statement from Leinā‘ala L. Ley, Earthjustice attorney:
“Today the Biden administration took a good first step towards restoring bedrock Endangered Species Act protections to our nation’s imperiled plants and wildlife. But the administration needs to work quickly to rescind all the Trump-era rules. The extinction crisis is happening now, not sometime in the distant future. What the Biden administration does now will make the difference between survival and extinction for countless species.”
Unless a court rules or a federal agency admits to legal violations, withdrawals or revisions to existing federal rules must go through a public rulemaking process that usually includes a proposed rule, comment period, public hearings, and a final rule. This process can last from months to years.
Earthjustice filed three lawsuits against the Trump administration for its rollbacks to the Endangered Species Act. The 2019 lawsuit is still being litigated and the 2020 lawsuits are stayed pending completion of the rulemakings announced today.
Earthjustice filed both 2020 lawsuits on behalf of Conservation Council for Hawai’i, Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Defenders of Wildlife, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Sierra Club, and WildEarth Guardians.
The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) joined the critical habitat exclusion challenge and is also represented by Earthjustice.
Find out more about our work to defend individual species and biodiversity.