Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 2, 2022


Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

Lawsuit Seeks Documents on Biden Administration Plans to Weaken Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit challenging the Biden administration’s failure to release documents detailing discussions between political officials, other agency staff, and members of Congress over potential legislation that would further weaken the Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, comes after documents previously obtained by the Center revealed that political officials within the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service may be considering legislation to weaken the legal requirements for the Forest Service to assess the conservation needs of endangered species at the landscape scale.

“It’s disturbing that the administration would even consider crippling protections for our most imperiled animals and plants during this unprecedented extinction crisis,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. “If Biden officials truly care about conserving our natural heritage, they shouldn’t be working with the worst anti-wildlife members of Congress who are bent on pushing some of our most iconic species toward extinction.”

In 2018 when the Republican Party held control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, Sen. Steve Daines successfully passed the so-called “Cottonwood” rider, which temporarily exempted the Forest Service from the requirement to reassess and potentially strengthen land-management plans after a species was listed or critical habitat was designated on the affected national forest.

Since the Cottonwood rider passed, Sen. Daines has introduced additional legislation that would expand and make permanent this exemption. It would also allow the Forest Service to ignore “any new information” — including new information about climate change’s threats to protected species like the Yellow-billed cuckoo or Yosemite toad — for years or even decades to come.

“We sincerely hope the Biden administration will publicly reject this head-in-the-sand approach to the climate emergency and extinction crisis,” said Hartl. “It’s time for Biden’s political appointees to stop playing games, come clean by turning over these documents, and stop pandering to Sen. Daines.”

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.

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