More than 150,000 people are calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to fully restore the Endangered Species Act (ESA), following proposed regulations that resulted from federal lawsuits challenging harmful regulations put in place under the Trump administration in 2019.
The Biden administration’s proposed rules, released in June, would reverse some of the lasting damage done to ESA implementation by the Trump rules. But they would also fall short of fully restoring the Act. For example, the Services failed to fully repair section 7 of the ESA, which governs how federal agencies ensure that their actions do not cause imperiled species to go extinct or destroy protected habitat. They also failed to reverse Trump’s damaging changes in section 4 that allow plants and animals to be prematurely delisted, among other shortcomings.
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of people who weighed in during the public comment period, 124 environmental organizations today submitted joint comments, including a detailed comment letter outlining all of the changes to the draft regulations that the Services still needs to make to fully restore the ESA.
The Act, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in December, has had a remarkable track record of saving species from extinction and keeping vital ecosystems intact. But unless the ESA is fully restored, our ability to mitigate the biodiversity crisis could be significantly hindered.
“Restoring the Endangered Species Act is a straightforward job that has major implications,” said Addie Haughey, director of Lands, Wildlife and Oceans for Earthjustice’s Policy and Legislation team. “The Biden administration has a responsibility to remove Trump’s remaining damage to the ESA — it is the quickest and easiest thing they can do right now to fight the biodiversity crisis.”
“As Hawai’i is deemed the extinction capital of the world, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is the most important piece of legislation to protect the native species and ecosystem,” said Jonee Peters, Executive Director, Conservation Council for Hawai’i. “With the lack of adequate protections it sets the stage for a biodiversity crisis. It’s imperative to restore the ESA to further protect endangered species and ecosystems. It’s a vital measure that we need in place to protect our environment, our species, and ourselves from further environmental catastrophes.”
“The American people expect that wildlife conservation will be based on science, not politics,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “It’s time for President Biden to fully reverse the Trump Extinction Plan.”
“Our most imperiled bird species depend upon the Endangered Species Act for protection,” said Hardy Kern, Director of Government Relations for American Bird Conservancy. “Restoring the ESA’s previous language and modernizing the regulations to face current challenges is crucial for species survival.”
“In the midst of the extinction and biodiversity crisis, it is absolutely essential for President Biden to fully reverse the politically motivated changes made by the Trump administration that weakened the ESA,” said Josh Osher, Public Policy Director for Western Watersheds Project. “The ESA works because it places science above politics. Now is the time for the Biden administration to restore the integrity of the Act.”
“We need the Endangered Species Act now more than ever,” said Joe Bushyhead, Endangered Species Attorney with WildEarth Guardians. “As the biodiversity crisis builds and species face new and growing threats from climate change, President Biden must fully restore the ESA. This is simply not the time to entertain half-measures.”
“Oregon, like all states, is grappling with the effects of biodiversity loss and has nearly 300 species at an elevated risk of extinction,” said Danielle Moser, Wildlife Program Manager for Oregon Wild. “To combat extinction and put our nation’s fish, wildlife, and plants on a path to recovery we need our most effective tool, the Endangered Species Act, to be fully restored.”
“California condors, grizzly bears, gray wolves, bald eagles, whooping cranes, and black-footed ferrets have all been brought back from the brink of extinction as a result of the Endangered Species Act,” said Camilla Fox, Executive Director of Project Coyote. “This Act — unique in its potent implications for ensuring against extinction — is our nation’s most critical environmental law; it is incumbent upon President Biden to do everything in his power to maintain its scientific integrity, purpose, and vision.”
“Now more than ever, the stakes for biodiversity are exceptionally high,” said Maggie Howell, Executive Director of the Wolf Conservation Center. “As we navigate the dire straits of what scientists confirm as the planet’s sixth major extinction phase, restoring the Endangered Species Act is not a matter of choice but a crucial necessity — it remains our most formidable shield against this tide.”
“The Endangered Species Act is a landmark law that’s critical to preventing extinction of imperiled species,” said Nicholas Arrivo, Managing Attorney for Animal Protection Law at the Humane Society of the United States. “Amidst the growing biodiversity and climate crises, it’s more urgent than ever that President Biden restore the effectiveness of the ESA by rescinding the damaging changes implemented by the previous administration in their entirety.”
“If we are to prevent the worst of the biodiversity crisis, it’s critical that the Services use the full extent of their authority to save our most imperiled species,” said Lucas Rhoads, staff attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “They have a golden opportunity to do just that by fully reversing the rollbacks instituted during the Trump administration, and there is no time to waste.”
“As we strive to keep our own species from extinction due to all too many backward-thinking policies over the decades, we must come to full realization of the negative and often fatal impact that our profit-over-protection stance has resulted in,” stated Gary Vella, President of SPEAK (Supporting & Promoting Ethics for the Animal Kingdom). “We’re currently reeling from the mistakes made during the Trump administration so we cannot afford anything less than a full-speed-ahead approach to protection of endangered species and their habitats. With climate change only exacerbating the ecological imbalance, we simply cannot afford to keep stumbling through our responsibility toward nonhuman species.”
“Extinction is forever. As a nation we have an obligation to curb our impacts on biodiversity and impart a livable world to future generations,” said Chance Cutrano, Director of Programs of the Resource Renewal Institute (RRI). “The Biden administration must take action to fully restore the Endangered Species Act, one of our most vital tools to protect the biotic integrity of our common home.”