Biden administration moves to undo two Trump-era Endangered Species Act rollbacks

Biden administration moves to undo two Trump-era Endangered Species Act rollbacks
© U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Biden administration will move to rescind two Trump-era rollbacks of protections for endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced Tuesday.

The first of the two rules, announced in December , would have curtailed the definition of “habitat” to pertain to areas that can currently support a species. Environmentalists pushed back on the move at the time, noting that it would exclude areas that could potentially support species in the future.

The second rule, finalized days later, would have barred FWS from granting critical habit protections to an area if an analysis determined it was of greater benefit not to provide them.

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“The Endangered Species Act is one of the most important conservation tools in America and provides a safety net for species that are at risk of going extinct,” Assistant FWS Secretary Shannon Estenoz said in a statement.

“If finalized, today’s proposed actions will bring the implementation of the Act back into alignment with its original intent and purpose — protecting and recovering America’s biological heritage for future generations," she added. 

The administration’s announcement made no mention of another Trump-era rollback of the Endangered Species Act, finalized in 2019. Those changes, currently the subject of litigation by the Biden administration, would allow for economic analyses to factor into protection determinations.

Leinā‘ala L. Ley, an attorney for the environmental advocacy group EarthJustice, said in a statement that the administration also must take further action to rescind the 2019 rule.

“Today the Biden administration took a good first step towards restoring bedrock Endangered Species Act protections to our nation’s imperiled plants and wildlife,” Ley said.

“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.”