Biden Administration Set to Reverse Trump Efforts to Weaken ESA

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (“Services”) today announced they will propose changes to Endangered Species Act regulations. The changes are designed to reverse, in part, a set of five regulations enacted by the Trump Administration that weakened protections for imperiled species and habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). While the precise extent of changes is unclear, the announcement marks a shift toward restoring strong protections for the country’s most imperiled species.  

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

“The Services’ proposal reflects a clear change in direction from the previous administration. If finalized, the changes will mean stronger protections for species and their habitats at a time when habitat destruction, exploitation, and climate change threaten their existence more than ever.”  

“The ESA remains a bedrock of environmental law that is as important and vibrant now as it has ever been. As the world faces the twin crises of biodiversity collapse and climate change, we will need all our policy tools to help enact desperately needed solutions to protect not only the nation's most imperiled plants and animals, but also the communities that rely on them." 

In a series of regulatory changes, the Trump administration weakened central protections of the ESA. The first package of regulations, finalized in 2019, enacted sweeping changes to how species are listed, how habitat is protected, and how the federal government considers the impacts of its actions on listed species. In late 2020, the Service finalized two additional regulations that weaken protections for areas listed species need to survive or recover, known as “critical habitat.” The first narrowly defined the term “habitat” to prevent the Service from acting proactively to protect crucial areas, and the second made it easier to exempt areas from critical habitat designation. Together, they paved the way for increased destruction and exploitation of critically important areas that deserve ESA protection. NRDC and its partners filed lawsuits in August of 2019 and January 2021, challenging the Trump Administration’s assault on the Endangered Species Act. 

The Endangered Species Act is a conservation law that 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 information 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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