4. “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Regulations for Listing Endangered and Threatened Species and Designating Critical Habitat,” 85 Fed. Reg. 81411 (December 16, 2020).
This rule redefines “critical habitat” so that protections will only exist for places where a species lives today or for areas that, if unchanged, could host the species. The shifting of this definition means that locations that could one day become habitat, or that could be restored to become a suitable habitat, wouldn’t be protected.
Many endangered species occupy only a tiny fraction of their former range and need much larger areas -- often outside their current habitat -- in order to survive and thrive in the long term. As the climate changes, it’s essential that we protect certain areas so species can shift their range in response. This rule will undermine those efforts.
5. “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Eleven Species Not Warranted for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species,” 85 Fed. Reg. 78029 (December 3, 2020).
This rule determined that it is not warranted at this time to list 11 species, including: the Doll's daisy; Puget Oregonian; Rocky Mountain monkeyflower; southern white-tailed ptarmigan; tidewater amphipod; tufted puffin; Hamlin Valley pyrg; longitudinal gland pyrg; sub-globose snake pyrg; the Johnson Springs Wetland Complex population of relict dace; and the Clear Lake hitch. Some of these decisions not to list could be warranted due to species recovery. But Biden’s review will make sure that none of these species still need protection.
6. “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife,” 85 Fed. Reg 69778 (November 3, 2020).
This rule delists the gray wolf from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, leaving their stewardship to the states. Once common throughout much of the lower 48 states, then nearly erased from all of them, gray wolves were an early success story for the Endangered Species Act. Thanks to reintroduction efforts in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s, there are now roughly 6,000 wolves in the continental U.S.
But when the wolves were delisted in 2011 in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan for a three-year window, an estimated 1,500 individuals from this keystone species were killed before protections were restored. To repeat this mistake would be devastating to the gray wolves in the lower 48.
7. “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Regulations for Listing Species and Designating Critical Habitat,” 84 Fed. Reg. 45020 (August 27, 2019).
This new rule makes it easier to remove a species from Endangered Species Act protections. Additionally, it raises the standard for how imminent a risk must be for a species to qualify as a threatened species -- an especially problematic change for species at risk of climate disruption. The rule mandates that the secretary of commerce or interior can only designate an unoccupied area as critical habitat if:
a) protecting all areas currently occupied by the species would be insufficient
b) the unoccupied area currently has biological features that are essential for the conservation of the species.
Essentially, this rule is a three-pronged attack on the ESA: it makes it harder for species to get protected, easier for those protections to be removed, and it waters down the value of those protections.