The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Stephanie Kurose,

Biden Administration Finalizes Weak Endangered Species Rules

Industry-Friendly Measures on Listing, Consultation Mostly Unchanged From Previous Administration

The Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce today finalized their proposed revisions to three sets of regulations that implement the Endangered Species Act’s listing and consultation procedures.

Of the 31 harmful changes made in 2019 to the Act’s regulations, only seven are fully addressed and corrected in today’s final rules. Those include restoring the precautionary “blanket-rule” for threatened species. Today’s finalized rules restored the long-standing prohibition on consideration of economic impacts when deciding whether to list species as threatened or endangered. The rules also remove barriers to designating as critical habitat unoccupied areas that are vital to the recovery of the nation’s wildlife and plants.

The new final rules fail to undo changes made in 2019 to the consultation process that ignore cumulative impacts to listed species and in general make it far easier for industries to receive approval for projects that destroy the habitat of countless species nationwide.

“This was a massive missed opportunity to address the worsening extinction crisis,” said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We needed bold solutions to guide conservation as the climate crisis drives more and more animals and plants to extinction. Instead we’re mostly still stuck with the disastrous anti-wildlife changes made by the previous administration.”

The final rules retain a number of harmful provisions governing the responsibility of federal agencies to avoid jeopardizing protected species or harming their critical habitat.

In particular, one rule requires federal actions to affect species’ critical habitat “as a whole” before real habitat protections are put in place. This is particularly harmful for wide-ranging animals like the northern spotted owl, polar bear or gulf sturgeon that have large critical habitat designations but are still at risk of extinction.

The rules also let federal agencies off the hook for past harms to endangered species from things like dam or highway construction by deeming these projects part of the “environmental baseline.”

In 2022 the Center filed a legal petition urging the wildlife agencies to enact ambitious new regulatory safeguards that strengthen all aspects of the law. The Biden administration has yet to respond to the petition.

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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