The Biden administration announced Friday it is reviewing or ending policies put in place by the Trump administration that weakened protections for endangered or threatened species.
The move comes from an executive order Biden issued instructing all federal agencies to examine Trump administration actions that may conflict with Biden-Harris administration objectives, including climate change policies.
Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams said in a statement that the administration intends to work with “diverse federal, Tribal, state and industry partners to not only protect and recover America’s imperiled wildlife but to ensure cornerstone laws like the Endangered Species Act are helping us meet 21st-century challenges.”
As part of these actions, the administration will reinstate a “blanket rule” that automatically extends endangered species protections to species designated as threatened. The agencies will also reinstate an Obama rule that said decisions to protect species and designate areas as a critical habitat should not factor in “possible economic or other impacts.” Trump had reversed that rule, allowing wildlife officials to consider potential economic costs of conservation when selecting which species should be designated as endangered.
Trump also revoked or downgraded protections for gray wolves, the American burying beetle, the northern spotted owl and other protected species, often in service of industries that threaten their habitats. At the end of his term, the Trump administration shrunk the northern spotted owl’s habitat by 3.5 million acres, but Biden’s Interior Department prevented that from going into effect and is reconsidering the plan. Biden has also already made moves to rescind a Trump-era rule that weakened the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which penalizes businesses and people who kill migratory birds, including accidentally.
Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization that sued the Trump administration when it weakened the Endangered Species Act, praised the administration’s decision but urged the president to move quickly. But many of these actions may take a while to implement, just as it took Trump years to undo some Obama-era protections.
“We are currently in the midst of an unprecedented global extinction crisis, and endangered species have no time to waste,” Earthjustice said in a statement. “We are grateful the Biden administration is moving to protect the most imperiled species by reversing the Trump-era rules, but time is of the essence. Each day that goes by is another day that puts our imperiled species and their habitats in danger.”