The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Services’ (NMFS) have announced proposals to update regulations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The last major updates to the ESA were made in 1982 (30+ years ago) and the regulations have not been significantly updated since 1986. More information on this effort can be found here.
The ESA is a well-intentioned law that has offered some conservation successes. However, its implementation has also led devastating impacts to rural communities. That’s why it’s time to improve the law’s implementation to make the law more responsive to modern science, as well as to the needs of our communities and vulnerable species.
The goal of these rule changes are to implement the ESA more efficiently and rigorously, and to ensure conservation efforts occur where they are most needed. After receiving input from the public, the agencies worked through a collaborative process with professional biologists and wildlife experts who worked for both Democratic and Republican administrations – to identify what works best and what needs change. We’re writing to let you know the public has another chance to review and comment on the three proposed changes under proposal.
Here’s what the proposed changes to ESA regulations would do:
- First, they would allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) to design species-specific plans and protections to replace the current “one-size-fits-all” approach for all species listed as “threatened.” This change would bring the Service’s approach to threatened species in line with NOAA Fisheries, which protects anadromous fish like salmon and has successfully used this model for decades. It will also allow conservation efforts and resources to be targeted where they will make the most difference.
- Second, the revised regulations establish concrete goals and clear criteria for determining whether a species has recovered and is no longer in need of protection under the Act. This is a step forward to make sure that government efforts, money, and time are focused on species that most need them. This change will increase the effectiveness of conservation efforts under the ESA.
- Third, when multiple government agencies are involved in wildlife management decisions, the proposal would clarify what information is needed to ensure government actions do not jeopardize listed species or destroy critical habitat. The proposal would also put a time limit on government consultations so that Federal projects and recovery actions are not left in limbo for years or decades – which doesn’t benefit any species.
It’s also important to note what these proposed regulation changes don’t do. They don’t eliminate or reduce existing protections for any threatened or endangered species. They don’t prohibit or restrict any species from being listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA in the future, or from receiving necessary Federal protections to avoid extinction. In fact, the proposed changes do not alter the Endangered Species Act by one word.
The FWS and NMFS need to hear that updating these regulations is not only long overdue, but necessary to protect and improve forest management and protect local communities. But don’t just take our word for it. Learn more about the ESA Implementation / Regulation Revisions. And if you agree these changes are important, please provide public comment to the agencies before the public scoping period expires on September 24th.
To provide comments on the three proposed changes, you will need to comment separately on the following three links. Click on the link, then, use the Comment Now button located on the upper right hand side:
Revision of the Regulations for Listing Species and Designating Critical Habitat
Revision of the Regulations for Prohibitions to Threatened Wildlife and Plants
Revision of Regulations for Interagency Cooperation
Here are the key points that apply to all three proposed changes, and that you can share with the agencies:
- ESA regulations must be updated to ensure clarity and consistency.
- The changes incorporate public input, best available science and best practices to improve reliability, regulatory efficiency and environmental stewardship.
- The proposed improvements will produce the best conservation results for the species while reducing the regulatory burden on the American people.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue. Please take a moment and support these critical regulation updates today.