The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Gwen Dobbs, Director of Media Relations,(202) 772-0269,

Defenders of Wildlife Welcomes Restoration of Automatic Endangered Species Act Protections for Threatened Species

In a highly-anticipated decision impacting our nation’s imperiled wildlife and their habitats, the Biden administration today released a re-write of damaging Trump-era Endangered Species Act regulations. The Trump rules severely undermined our nation’s strongest law for preventing extinction by eliminating important protections for threatened species, making it more difficult to factor climate change into listing decisions and allowing burdensome and inappropriate economic considerations into listing decisions, among other things.

Defenders of Wildlife was among the conservation groups that sued to overturn these regulations back in 2019.

While much of the new language will need to be more closely scrutinized in order to determine long-term impact, one important victory for wildlife is the reinstatement of automatic ESA protections, or the “blanket 4(d) rule”, for threatened species managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“While areas of concern exist within these new regulations, restoring automatic protections for our nation’s threatened species is a huge step in the right direction for the Endangered Species Act and biodiversity,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “As humans, we are inextricably linked with the ecosystems around us. Saving nature and establishing scientifically-sound ways to coexist with wildlife must be a national priority. Our future depends on it.”

The “blanket 4(d) rule” automatically gives threatened species on land and in freshwater the same protections as endangered species unless otherwise specified. This is an important component of Congress’ original intent for the ESA - to stem the slide of threatened species toward extinction and support their recovery to the point where they can be delisted in accordance with best available science.

An additional bright spot is the withdrawal of regulations that injected economic considerations into the analyses to determine whether a species should be listed under the ESA. The ESA requires such listing decisions be made using the best available science, and specifically prohibits consideration of the economic costs of listing.

“Removal of economic considerations that had infected the scientific-based process for determining whether a species was afforded protections against extinction is a welcome proposal,” added Clark.

At the same time, the proposal still retains several of the 2019 regulatory changes that undermine protections for imperiled wildlife and weaken the Endangered Species Act.

In 2022, Biden also rescinded two other Trump regulations that conservation groups had challenged, which had heavily favored industry by altering the way that critical habitat was designated under the ESA.

Marking its 50th anniversary, the ESA is America’s most effective law for protecting wildlife and plants in danger of extinction. Its success is due to its mandate to use the best available science – not politics – in decision-making. The law is overwhelmingly supported by Americans regardless of political-leanings, geography and demographics. More than 95 percent of listed species have survived under its protections and many more have been set on a path towards recovery including the black-footed ferret, wood stork and Fender’s blue butterfly. Iconic species like the American peregrine falcon and the bald eagle were recovered and delisted due to ESA’s success.

Defenders of Wildlife is the premier U.S.-based national conservation organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of imperiled species and their habitats in North America.

(202) 682-9400