The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (“Services”) released a set of proposed rules that restore protections for species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The much-anticipated rules are a rollback of the Trump administration’s 2019 package of rules that undermined core protections for listed species and their habitat. While the new rules reverse many of those harmful changes, they also leave in place key changes that weaken our nation’s most important—and successful—wildlife-protection law.
First, the good. The new regulations restore crucial protections in a number of ways, but three stand out:
- They restore automatic protections for threatened species. For decades, when the Fish and Wildlife Service listed a species as threatened, they automatically gave it the same protections as endangered species unless the agency developed species-specific protections. In other words, full protections were the default. But in 2019, the Trump administration did away with this practice; if FWS listed a threatened species and did not promulgate specific protections, the species would receive no protections from hunting, trapping, and other harms. With these changes, the Services have restored default protections, ensuring that species get the protection they need and creating less work for an already over-burdened agency.