Interior Department Proposes Revisions to ‘Clarify’ Parts of the Endangered Species Act


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries on Thursday proposed revisions to certain regulations that implement portions of the Endangered Species Act to ensure clarity and consistency.

Wildlife officials believe the proposed revisions will advance conservation by clarifying how the Endangered Species Act is used on a more consistent basis.

“We work to ensure effective conservation measures to recover our most imperiled species,” said Chris Oliver, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries. “The changes being proposed today are designed to bring additional clarity and consistency to the implementation of the act across our agencies, and we look forward to additional feedback from the public as part of this process.”

Here’s more important verbiage from the news release:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is separately proposing to rescind its blanket rule under section 4(d) of the ESA, which automatically conveyed the same protections for threatened species as for endangered species unless otherwise specified. This brings its regulatory approach to threatened species protections in line with NOAA Fisheries, which has not employed such a blanket rule. The proposed changes would impact only future listings or downlistings and would not apply to those species already listed as threatened. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will craft species-specific 4(d) rules for each future threatened species determination that are necessary and advisable for the conservation of the species, as has been standard practice for most species listed as threatened in recent years.

Despite some who think such moves would put certain species on a fast track to extinction, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan offers this exposition:

“No two species are the same, and so by crafting species-specific 4(d) rules for threatened species, we can tailor appropriate protections using best available science according to each species’ biological needs. By creating a clearer regulatory distinction between threatened and endangered species, we are also encouraging partners to invest in conservation that has the potential to improve a species’ status, helping us work towards our ultimate goal: RECOVERY.”

The proposed rules are available here and will publish in the Federal Register in coming days, including detailed information on how the public can submit written comments and information concerning these provisions.

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