Biden Administration Proposes Partial Restoration of ESA Protections

Trump-Era Regulations Prioritized Extractive Industries Over Species’ Needs

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) today proposed the repeal of two Trump-era regulatory changes that weakened critical habitat protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed reversals are now subject to a 30-day comment period.  

NRDC and partners, represented by Earthjustice, challenged the Trump-era rollbacks in court.  

The following is a statement from Rebecca Riley, Managing Director of the Nature Program at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). 

“The Trump Administration’s ESA rollbacks weakened habitat protections that have been central to the ESA’s success for decades. While today’s proposals mark an important step toward reversing the damage done by the Trump administration, many ESA rollbacks remain in place and continue to harm imperiled species, worsening the ongoing biodiversity crisis. The Biden administration must move quickly to fully restore ESA protections before it is too late.” 


In December 2020, the Trump administration finalized two rules aimed at limiting protection of “critical habitat” for ESA-listed species.  Once designated, critical habitat areas are subject to important protections under the Endangered Species Act.   

The first Trump rule imposed a new definition of “habitat” that applies to critical habitat designations. It defined habitat to include only areas that had the present capacity to support a species, limiting proactive protection of important areas. The second gave industry special interests outsized influence over USFWS decisions to exclude areas from critical habitat protection. The move made way for developers, states, and local governments to prioritize destructive development over protection of the habitat that listed species need. 

The Endangered Species Act has effectively protected endangered species for over 40 years. Since its implementation, 99 percent of listed species—including the bald eagle and the gray wolf—have been spared from extinction. A 2015 poll showed 90 percent of voters support the Endangered Species Act, with broad bipartisan support.   

More on the Endangered Species Act: 

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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