Interior Department Finalizes Changes to Endangered Species Act

New Regulation Prioritizes Economic Analysis Over Species’ Habitat Needs

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finalized a regulation today that changes the process for considering critical habitat exclusions under the Endangered Species Act. The new rule will decrease designation of critical habitat based on economic costs, making way for developers, states, and local governments to prioritize oil and gas development and other industry over the value of restoring endangered species populations – at a time when our nation faces a biodiversity crisis. The move forces FWS to consider financial impacts that could significantly reduce critical habitat, based on developers’ cost analysis and what developers identify as the production lost as a result of designating critical habitat. The Trump Administration has repeatedly taken actions to weaken the Endangered Species Act, with this rule being the second ESA action taken this week. 

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

“This regulation puts a thumb on the scale for developers and fossil fuel interests, making the critical habitat analysis less about survival of a species and more about profits. The rule improperly shifts responsibility for economic analyses to industry as well as state and local governments, an abandonment of the agency’s responsibilities under the law. The nation’s endangered species are not simply ‘lost profits’ on a ledger, they are valued creatures in need of a home.” 


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.  


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 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, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC


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