Judge Rules for the ESA

*Erases Trump Era Regs

By David Robinson, July 11, 2022

Endangered species and conservation groups received good news on July 5.

That Tuesday, a federal court judge restored essential endangered species protections that the Trump administration had erased in 2019.

The Biden Administration had indicated that it was planning to revise or repeal the Trump-reign rules. The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service agreed to review and rewrite them. Meanwhile, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit (on behalf of several environmental groups) challenging the regulations. Last December, the agencies asked the court to “remand” the case. But reviewing and revising is typically a lengthy process. The judge’s wise decision to vacate the regs erased them from the books.

The harmful regulations had removed the “blanket rule” that provided threatened species with the same protection as endangered species, made it more difficult to protect species from the climate crisis, and made it easier to delist species. In addition, they allowed regulators to factor in the economic impact of protecting a species. It also was harder to list new species and protect critical habitats.

“The Court spoke for species desperately in need of comprehensive federal protections without compromise,” said Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney. “Threatened and endangered species do not have the luxury of waiting under rules that do not protect them.”

The judge’s action restored protections that should never have been discarded. It’s another example of the ongoing challenge to protect the Endangered Species Act and the organizations and individuals that lead the way.

Plans are underway for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the ESA, which was enacted on December 28, 1973.

During the next 18 months, we’ll have numerous opportunities to recognize the Act’s many successes. And also do whatever we can to protect vulnerable plant and animal species and their precious habitats.

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