Federal agencies reverse Trump limits on habitat protection

Jun 22, 2022, 10:26 PM | Updated: Jun 23, 2022, 12:10 pm
FILE - A gopher frog is pictured at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans on Sept. 27, 2011. The Biden adm...

FILE - A gopher frog is pictured at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans on Sept. 27, 2011. The Biden administration on Thursday, June 23, 2022, withdrew a rule adopted under former President Donald Trump that limited which lands and waters could be designated as places where imperiled animals and plants could receive federal protection. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The Biden administration on Thursday withdrew a rule adopted under former President Donald Trump that limited which lands and waters could be designated as places where imperiled animals and plants could receive federal protection.

A definition of “habitat” published in December 2020, shortly before Trump left office, restricted areas the government could identify as critical for particular wildlife. Environmental advocates said the move would put more species on a path toward extinction, while supporters said it would secure private property rights.

In rescinding the rule, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service said it could hamper their mission to make science-based critical habitat decisions.

“The growing extinction crisis highlights the importance of the Endangered Species Act and efforts to conserve species before declines become irreversible,” said Shannon Estenoz, assistant interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks.

The rule was one of several steps the Trump administration took to scale back or alter endangered species policies, including lifting blanket protections for animals newly listed as threatened and setting cost estimates for saving species. Biden ordered a review of his predecessor’s environmental rulemaking shortly after taking office.

Under the 1973 law, federal agencies cannot fund, permit or take actions that would destroy or severely damage critical habitats. It doesn’t restrict activities on private land unless government approval or financial support is involved.

The Trump rule’s habitat definition was “unclear, confusing and inconsistent with the conservation purposes” of the law, the Fish and Wildlife Service and Marine Fisheries Service said in a joint statement.

It prevented agencies from selecting areas that don’t presently meet a species’ needs but might in the future as a result of restoration work or natural changes, the statement said. Global warming is expected to alter many landscapes and waters, attracting species that migrate from places no longer suitable for them.

Habitat degradation and loss is the primary reason animals and plants become endangered, the agencies said, adding that they should be able to designate critical spaces “in a manner that protects listed species’ habitats and supports their recovery.”

Environmental groups applauded the rule reversal, which comes as scientists warn of a worldwide biodiversity plunge. A 2019 United Nations report said about 1 million plants and animals are in danger of extinction, with species loss accelerating tens or hundreds of times faster than before.

“It’s welcome news, but there is still more work to be done to shore up the (Endangered Species Act) so that imperiled wildlife have every fighting chance to survive and thrive,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife.

Jonathan Wood, vice president of law and policy with the Property and Environment Research Center, a self-described “free market environmentalism” group, said rescinding the rule would discourage private conservation efforts.

“Critical habitat designations penalize landowners who conserve or restore habitat and, thus, are unhelpful in areas that require substantial restoration to support the species,” Wood said. “The agency should be providing incentives for landowners to protect and restore habitat, not alienating potential conservation partners.”

He represented forest landowners in a lawsuit that prompted a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that led the Trump administration to craft its habitat definition.

The case involved the highly endangered dusky gopher frog, which survives in just a few Mississippi ponds.

The Fish and Wildlife Service designated 1,500 acres (607 hectares) in neighboring Louisiana as critical habitat for the frog even though none lived there. Environmentalists said more space was essential for the frog but the landowner, timber company Weyerhaeuser Co., called it an unjust land grab.

The court ordered the government to decide what constitutes suitable habitat for the frog before designating areas as critical to save them.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Pope urges Congo, South Sudan to work for peace, prosperity

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis urged the people and leaders of Congo and South Sudan on Saturday to “turn a page” and forge new paths of reconciliation, peace and development. Francis issued a video message on the day he had planned to begin a weeklong pilgrimage to the two African countries. He canceled the scheduled […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Ship sinks in storm off Hong Kong, dozens of crew in danger

HONG KONG (AP) — An industrial support ship operating in the South China Sea has sunk with the possible loss of more than two dozen crew members, rescue services in Hong Kong said Saturday. Authorities dispatched planes and helicopters to aid in the rescue, with at least three people from the crew of 30 brought […]
1 day ago
Cement trucks parked at a construction site of an apartment building under construction for residen...
Associated Press

Russians press assault on eastern Ukrainian city

KYIV, Ukarine (AP) — Russian forces are pounding the city of Lysychansk and its surroundings in an all-out attempt to seize the last stronghold of resistance in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, the governor said Saturday. Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city and to keep it from falling to Russia, as neighboring […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Rescuers recover 26 dead from mudslide in India’s northeast

GAUHATI, India (AP) — Fresh rain and falling boulders on Saturday hampered rescuers who have so far pulled out 26 bodies from the debris of a mudslide that wiped out a railroad construction site in India’s northeast, officials said. Rescue work is expected to continue for a couple of days in rugged hilly terrain with […]
1 day ago
FILE -  A coal-fired power station in Witbank, South Africa , Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. South Africans...
Associated Press

South Africans struggle in the dark to cope with power cuts

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africans are struggling in the dark to cope with increased power cuts that have hit households and businesses across the country. The rolling power cuts have been experienced for years but this week the country’s state-owned power utility Eskom extended them so that some residents and businesses have gone without power […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Virgin Orbit rocket launches 7 US defense satellites

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Virgin Orbit rocket carrying seven U.S. Defense Department satellites was launched from a special Boeing 747 flying off the Southern California coast and streaked toward space Friday night. The modified jumbo jet took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert and released the rocket over the […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Federal agencies reverse Trump limits on habitat protection