For Immediate Release, June 4, 2021

Contact:

Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org

Biden Administration Promises to Rescind, Revise Trump Endangered Species Rules

Trump-era Changes Weakened Wildlife Protections, Ignored Growing Extinction Crisis

WASHINGTON— The Biden administration announced today it will rescind or revise five regulations instituted by the Trump administration that sharply undercut protections for the nation’s endangered species. The rules opened the door to consideration of economic factors in decisions for species protections, weakened protections for critical habitat and left threatened species without guaranteed protections.

“These rules were an absolute disaster for endangered wildlife,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ll closely watch the revision process, but we’re hopeful the Biden administration takes the extinction crisis seriously and proposes strong rules to protect species.”

Today’s announcement, made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, pledged the recission of two critical habitat rules finalized in the Trump administration’s final months. These rules sharply limit what areas can be protected for species, narrowly defining habitat to include only places that can currently support a species and opening up exclusion of habitat based on trumped-up economic claims, including on federal lands.

Two other rules finalized in 2019 will be revised. One of these weakened the consultation process designed to prevent harm to endangered animals and their habitats from federal agency activities. A second set curtailed the designation of critical habitat, particularly for climate change-impacted species, and weakened the listing process for imperiled species by allowing consideration of economic impacts when deciding whether to protect a species.

Finally, the federal government will reverse another Trump regulation that rescinded a rule providing automatic protections for wildlife newly designated as “threatened” under the Act.

One part of the Trump rules relating to federal consultations not mentioned in today’s announcement relates to how impacts to critical habitat are considered. Under this Trump-era rule, federal actions will not be considered to “adversely modify” critical habitat and thus would not be curtailed unless they impact the entirety of an animal’s habitat. That disregards the cumulative “death-by-a-thousand-cuts” process that is the most common way species decline toward extinction. Today’s release stated only that the “effects of the action” will be considered; such consideration was narrowly restricted under the Trump rules.

“With these promised revisions to the listing, critical habitat and consultation rules, the devil will be in the details,” said Greenwald. “But that’s a fight for another day and for now, we’re elated the Trump administration’s misguided and ill-timed attacks on endangered species are on their way out.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.