Obama Administration Finalizes New Rules Impeding Citizens' Ability to Use Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release

Obama Administration Finalizes New Rules Impeding Citizens' Ability to Use Endangered Species Act

Rules Impose Pointless Procedural Burdens Designed to Discourage Citizens, Scientists From Filing Petitions to Protect Imperiled Species

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service finalized new rules today that restrict the ability of ordinary citizens, scientists and public-interest organizations to obtain Endangered Species Act protections for species on the brink of extinction. The new rules eliminate the ability of the public to submit multispecies petitions and require that 30 days prior to submitting a petition, the petitioner must notify every state where an imperiled species may live. 

“These new restrictions on citizen petitions are nothing more than a gift to industries and right-wing states that are hostile to endangered species,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These rules make it harder to get imperiled species the Endangered Species Act protections they desperately need, and they do nothing to address the backlog of hundreds of imperiled species that are still waiting to get the protections they deserve.”

The Endangered Species Act expressly allows citizens to petition for species’ protection. Scientific research confirms that citizen petitions routinely identify species at the highest risk of extinction, and the majority of the protections given to 1,600 species to date have been in response to citizen petitions. The filing of a petition triggers what is supposed to be a two-year process that includes three public-comment periods. Unfortunately the Fish and Wildlife Service routinely violates this legal requirement, often taking more than a decade to complete the process. Delays in protection of species have had significant consequences, with more than 40 species having gone extinct while waiting for protection.

“These new rules were premised on right-wing myths, not facts,” said Hartl. “The Endangered Species Act already requires a lengthy comment process that gives states additional privileges and multiple opportunities to provide input on the status of imperiled species. These rules are specifically intended to intimidate ordinary citizens by making it more cumbersome for them  to seek protection of our imperiled plants and animals.”

Today’s rule is one of the last in a series of new regulations that have limited the scope of the Endangered Species Act, solidifying the Obama administration's record as no friend of endangered species. Other administration policies have limited protections for endangered species’ critical habitat; limited which species get protection in the first place; and given federal agencies carte blanche to harm endangered species by ignoring the cumulative impacts of agency activities.

“It will take many years to do undo the larger damage to the Endangered Species Act that this administration has wrought, and to get those animals and plants that were wrongly denied protection onto the endangered species list,” said Hartl.


At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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