Administration proposes suite of Endangered Species Act regulatory revisions

The proposed changes would revoke several changes made during the previous administration

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service released changes to a suite of regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act. The affected regulations include those dealing with interagency consultation, listing and delisting, and designation of critical habitat.

The proposed changes also include the reinstatement of the “blanket 4(d) rule,” which extends many protections for endangered species to species listed as threatened.

This suite of rulemaking proposes several revisions to Endangered Species Act implementing regulations that went into effect in 2019. The proposed revisions are in response to a January 2021 executive order requiring all agencies to conduct reviews of actions that took place during the previous administration.

The blanket 4(d) provision extends a majority of protections offered to endangered species to threatened species unless an alternative rule under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act is issued for a particular species. In 2019, the blanket rule was revoked, making the issuance of species-specific rules the only mechanism to apply certain protective regulations for species listed as threatened. As part of the current rulemaking, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services aims to reinstate the blanket 4(d) rule.

Another topic the proposals address are changes to factors for listing and delisting species as well as critical habitat designations. Specifically, several pieces of language added in 2019 that modified the determination of critical habitat designations will be revoked.

Further, the proposed changes include several revisions to interagency cooperation regulations that went into place in 2019, including revising the definition of what effects of a federal action should be scrutinized under the Act.

TWS submitted comments in response to the 2019 rulemakings, expressing concerns regarding the rescinding of the blanket 4(d) rule and changes to interagency consultation. 

“We are pleased with the Services’ proposed changes to the implementation of the Endangered Species Act and look forward to working with the agencies to further enhance implementation moving forward,” said Caroline Murphy, TWS Government Relations Manager.

The comment period for the proposed rulemakings closes Aug. 21.

Read TWS’ Position Statements on Threatened and Endangered Species in the U.S. and the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Header Image: The eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi) is listed as threatened due to habitat loss. Credit: Renee Bodine/USFWS