WASHINGTON— The Biden administration announced today it will rescind two Trump regulations. One Trump rule severely limits the government’s ability to protect habitat that imperiled animals and plants need to survive and recover. The second opened up the exclusion of habitat from protection based on trumped-up economic claims.
“We’re relieved that the Biden administration has taken this important step toward restoring critical protections for imperiled species,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s just no way to save animals and plants from extinction without safeguarding the places they need to live.”
Today’s proposal would revoke a Trump administration regulation that defined “habitat” to severely restrict the areas the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service can designate as protected “critical habitat” for threatened and endangered species.
Under the Trump rule, protections are limited to areas that could currently support the species — but not areas that were previously occupied and could be restored, or that will provide additional habitat for future recovery as climate change shifts where species can live.
The new proposal would also rescind a Trump regulation that made habitat exclusions much more likely by requiring the Fish and Wildlife Service to “assign weight” to industry claims of economic impacts, which can be highly speculative. The Trump rule also required the Service to consider excluding an area upon request and open federal lands to exclusion to benefit special interests.
In June the Biden administration announced its plan to rescind or revise five regulations finalized during the Trump administration that sharply undercut protections for endangered species. Today’s announcement marks the first two of those rescissions.
The Services pledged to rescind a third rule, which removed automatic protections for wildlife newly designated as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The Services also said they would revise two rules finalized in 2019. 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.
“The Endangered Species Act is one of the best tools we have to fight the extinction crisis, but it needs to be restored to its full power,” said Greenwald. “We certainly hope the Biden administration makes this a top priority in the weeks ahead.”
On Oct. 21, Biden nominated Martha Williams to serve as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Williams has been serving as principal deputy director of the Service since Jan. 20.