The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have proposed rescinding two 2020 rules put in place by former President Donald Trump, a move that would allow the agencies more power to prevent development in endangered species’ habitats, part of a larger White House effort to undo policies Trump passed during office.
Reversing the decisions will allow the wildlife services to better enforce the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which set the framework to protect endangered species and their habitats, officials said in a statement Tuesday.
One of the Trump-era policy changes allowed local governments to revoke habitat protections for endangered species if development could create more economic benefits.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said in 2020 the new guidelines allowed for more local government control over how land is used, but critics said it opened the door for private development that could harm the environment.
The second Trump-era change outlined a strict, regulatory definition of the word “habitat” in environmental legislation, which critics said did not provide enough flexibility to allow for good environmental and climate change policy.
The two proposed rollbacks are strictly aimed at reversing those Trump-era changes.
To officially rescind Trump’s environmental rollbacks, the proposals must pass a process that includes 30-day public comment periods and input from federally recognized tribes, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
“If finalized, today’s proposed actions will bring the implementation of the (Endangered Species Act) back into alignment with its original intent and purpose – protecting and recovering America’s biological heritage for future generations,” Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz said in a statement.
The two regulatory rollbacks are the latest Trump policies to be targeted by the Biden White House. In less than a year in office, the Biden administration has reversed Trump-era regulations on abortion funding, transgender people serving in the millitary, fetal tissue research, sending aid to Palestinians and more. The U.S. was also elected to rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council after Trump’s administration exited the assembly three years ago.
The two rules were finalized in December 2020, during Trump’s last leg in office. Trump was criticized during his term for loosening environmental regulations toward policies that favored development. In September, federal wildlife officials recommended that 23 species in the U.S — 22 animals and one plant — be designated as extinct. Bridget Fahey, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s head of species classification, told the New York Times it was “a sobering reminder that extinction is a consequence of human-caused environmental change.”