On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled against a number of Trump administration actions to reduce protections for endangered and threatened species. This comes a year after Biden's administration stated it was working to strengthen these protections.
The Trump-era rules were removed by Jon Tigar, U.S. District Judge in Northern California. Two wildlife agencies under President Joe Biden have been reviewing the regulations or repealing them. While the reviews are complete, the decision restores a variety of protections under The Endangered Species Act, including some that date back to the 1970s. Environmental groups applauded the decision. They said it accelerated protections and designated critical habitats for threatened species such as salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney, stated that Tigar's ruling "spoke to species desperately in need federal protections without compromise," Kristen Boyles said. "Endangered and threatened species cannot afford to wait under rules that don't protect them."
Two federal agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, received the court ruling. The court ruling comes as two federal agencies -- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service - review five Endangered Speies Act regulations that President Donald Trump's administration has finalized. These regulations include critical habitat designations and rules that require federal agencies to consult with wildlife or fisheries service before taking any actions that may affect endangered or threatened species.
Fish and Wildlife said that it would also reinstate the "blanket rule," a decades-old law that provides additional protections for threatened species. Trump has removed those protections.
The designation of critical habitats for endangered or threatened species can limit energy development. For example, oil drilling or mining could disrupt a vulnerable species. Meanwhile, the consultation rule and separate rule on proposed federal actions help to determine the extent that the government will go to protect imperiled species.
Trump officials reversed the protections for gray wolves, northern spotted owls, and other species. Biden promised to review these actions. Biden's administration had previously attempted to reverse Trump’s decision to weaken enforcement the century-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This made it more difficult to prosecute bird deaths due to the energy industry.
Trump's bird law reversal was one of more than 150 business-friendly environmental actions. Biden is looking to reconsider, revise, or scrap a 2020 rule that restricted which lands and waters could become designated as areas where endangered animals and plants can receive federal protection.
A spokesperson for the Interior Department, which oversees Fish and Wildlife Service, stated Tuesday that the agency was reviewing the court's decision.
Fish and Wildlife and the marine fisheries services announced in June 2021 they were reviewing Trump's actions regarding endangered species. Officials said that the reviews could take several months to complete.
Republicans and industry groups have always viewed the Endangered Species Act in Congress as a barrier to economic development. Trump successfully lobbied for the law's weakening. Environmental groups and Democratic-controlled states battled the moves in court, but many of those cases remained unresolved.
Ryan Shannon, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, said he was "incredibly pleased" that Trump-era rules regarding endangered species were overturned by Tigar of Oakland, California, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama to the federal bench.
Shannon stated Tuesday that she hoped the Biden administration would use Tuesday's opportunity to strengthen the law rather than weakening it in the face the ongoing extinction crisis.
Rebecca Riley, Natural Resources Defense Council, stated that the court ruling "ensures the previous administration's ‘extinction package’ will be rolled back."
She joined other advocates in calling on the Biden administration "to do its job: preventing the extinctions of vulnerable species."