Trump administration revises Endangered Species Act rules
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service jointly announced revisions to regulations that implement portions of the Endangered Species Act.
Agriculture groups that have criticized the rules for decades immediately praised the Trump administration’s actions while environmental groups denounced them.
“The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal — recovery of our rarest species. The act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation,” said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
“An effectively administered act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation.”
“The revisions finalized with this rulemaking fit squarely within the president’s mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public, without sacrificing our species’ protection and recovery goals,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
“These changes were subject to a robust, transparent public process, during which we received significant public input that helped us finalize these rules.”
Jennifer Houston, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Tennessee rancher, said, “The ESA affects cattle-producing families across the country. We are grateful to Secretary Bernhardt and the staff at FWS and NMFS for bringing this long-awaited regulatory relief to American cattle farmers and ranchers.”
Public Lands Council President Bob Skinner, an Oregon rancher, said “With these new rules, commonsense will once again be inserted into the ESA process.”
“Among other things, prioritizing critical habitat designations on occupied territory, streamlining the consultation process, and rolling back the ‘Blanket 4(d) Rule’ demonstrates that the agencies are reaffirming their commitment to both conserve sensitive species and safeguard rural economies.”
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said “Farm Bureau welcomes all of these changes.”
“These new regulations restore the traditional distinction between threatened and endangered species,” Duvall said. “That’s important. In the real world, the things we must do to restore a threatened species are not always the same as the ones we’d use for endangered species. This approach will eliminate unnecessary time and expense and ease the burden on farmers and ranchers who want to help species recover.
“Finally, we are pleased to see one other, common-sense matter: Lands to be designated as unoccupied critical habitat for threatened and endangered species will have to actually include at least one physical or biological feature needed to conserve the species.”
On behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund, Holly Pearen, a senior attorney with Ecosystems, said, “On the whole, the regulatory reform package finalized by the Trump administration does more harm than good to our nation’s wildlife. Many of the rule changes are overtly political, do nothing to enhance science-based decision-making, and undermine key incentives for proactive and collaborative conservation.“
“Further, they would allow the agencies to deliberately ignore how plants and animals, just like people, are affected by the impacts of climate change.
“A startling report by the United Nations recently showed that human activity is putting 1 million species of plants and animals at risk of extinction. To get ahead of this problem, we urgently need flexible and innovative policies that reward collaborative conservation on private lands, where wildlife is most threatened and where we can make the biggest advances in restoring habitat.
“Unfortunately this administration’s reform package falls far short and, in the end, will only increase litigation and delay implementation of a bedrock environmental law, while doing nothing to address the catastrophic loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems on which we all depend.” ❖