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June 4th, 2021
Chair Grijalva Hails Biden Admin Moves to Restore Endangered Species Act Rules, Urges Further Action on Biodiversity Protection Based on Climate Threats

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today hailed the Biden administration’s announcement that it will correct and update five regulations pertaining to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) weakened during the Trump era to help polluters. Grijalva urged the administration to continue updating federal standards for protecting biodiversity with the full knowledge that climate change is advancing and time for meaningful action is short.

The administration announced today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) propose to rescind two Trump-era rules that weakened critical habitat regulations; reinstate FWS’s blanket protections for threatened species; reinstate a previous standard that listing decisions be made “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination,” consistent with the language of the law; and revise the definition of “effects of the action” and associated provisions addressing interagency consultation.

Grijalva said the moves, taken together, are a critical step in protecting biodiversity and returning public confidence in our ability to prevent the extinction of threatened and endangered species. He added that further similar action will be necessary to address the damage we already know is being done by climate change, including a regulatory update to the definition of the phrase “foreseeable future” to explicitly include climate impacts.

Grijalva pointed out that the Trump-era redefinition of “foreseeable future” prevented many listing decisions for species impacted by climate change, including the American wolverine, Pacific walrus, bi-state sage grouse, Montana Arctic grayling, Eastern hellbender, and more. Grijalva urged the administration to review ESA listing decisions made during the Trump era, including:

  • the wrongly delayed regulatory consideration for the monarch butterfly, whose western population has declined by 99.99% since the 1980s;
  • the down-listing of the American burying beetle from endangered to threatened, despite the fact that the species is likely to go extinct in the southern plains because of warming temperatures.

Grijalva further urged NMFS to follow FWS’s lead by providing blanket protections for threatened species under ESA’s 4(d) rule, which directs agencies to provide full rather than partial protection to threatened species even before they are listed as fully endangered. As it stands, Grijalva said, a “threatened” listing provides no serious benefit without a thorough 4(d) rule, and NMFS regulations should be amended so that ESA protections extend to all species threatened with extinction.

“This is an important down payment on preventing the collapse of our ecosystems, and I’m glad to see the administration updating these broken standards quickly,” Grijalva said today. “With climate change bearing down on us and no serious doubt remaining about the consequences of inaction, we should take this opportunity to update all federal standards as thoroughly as possible to prevent habitat destruction and biodiversity loss before it’s too late. This is a good start, and I’m looking forward to working with the administration to keep this movement going.”

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