Biden Administration rolls back protections on threatened species

On Thursday, the Biden administration restored rules to protect imperiled plants and animals that had been rolled back under former President Trump.

Among the changes announced, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reinstate a decades-old regulation that mandates blanket protections for species newly classified as threatened.

That means officials won’t have to craft time-intensive plans to shield each individual species while protections are pending, as has been done recently with North American wolverines and alligator snapping turtles in the southeastern U.S. and spotted owls.

The blanket protection regulation was dropped in 2019 as part of a suite of changes to the application of the species law under Trump that were encouraged by industry.

Officials also will not consider economic impacts when deciding if animals and plants need protection.

In addition, the rules from the wildlife service and National Marine Fisheries Service make it easier to designate areas as critical for a species’ survival, even if it is no longer found in those locations.

Details on the rules were obtained by The Associated Press in advance of their public release.

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams said the rule changes underscored the agency’s commitment to using the best available science to halt population declines.

Many energy companies, ranchers, developers, and representatives of other industries have long viewed the 1973 Endangered Species Act as an impediment.

Under Trump, they successfully lobbied to weaken the law’s regulations as part of a broad dismantling of environmental safeguards.

Trump officials had also rolled back endangered species rules and protections for the northern spotted owl, gray wolves, and other species.