Biden administration plans to undo Trump-era curbs to Endangered Species Act protections

Senate Votes Not To Allow Drilling In Artic Refuge
ARCTIC NATIONAL REFUGE, ALASKA - UNDATED: (FILE PHOTO) Caribou graze in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska in this undated file photo. The U.S. Senate voted not to allow drilling for oil in the refuge March 19, 2003 by a 52-to-48 vote. (Photo by US Fish and Wildlife Service/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The Biden administration announced on Friday plans to review and revise a handful of Trump-era regulations that critics feared rolled back protections for endangered and threatened species.

The reviews, conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, are being cheered by environmental groups, which said the Trump administration rules would have allowed for more oil and gas drilling and limited how much regulators consider the impacts of the climate crisis, in addition to weakening protections on endangered species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which the National Marine Fisheries Service is a part of, said in Friday’s announcement that they will target five specific regulations, and their plan includes recommendations to rescind certain critical habitat regulations, as well as to reinstate some protections for species listed as “threatened” under the act.

The recommendations “will undergo a rigorous and transparent rulemaking process,” according to the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to working with diverse federal, Tribal, state and industry partners to not only protect and recover America’s imperiled wildlife but to ensure cornerstone laws like the Endangered Species Act are helping us meet 21st century challenges,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams in a statement. “We look forward to continuing these conservation collaborations and to ensuring our efforts are fully transparent and inclusive.”

Several environmental groups — some of which had sued the Trump administration over its changes to the Endangered Species Act’s implementation — praised Friday’s announcement as a step in the right direction but cautioned that urgent action is needed.

“We are currently in the midst of an unprecedented global extinction crisis, and endangered species have no time to waste,” the environmental group Earthjustice said in a statement. “We are grateful the Biden administration is moving to protect the most imperiled species by reversing the Trump-era rules, but time is of the essence. Each day that goes by is another day that puts our imperiled species and their habitats in danger.”

Rebecca Riley, managing director of the Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, also said in a statement Friday: “The Services’ proposal reflects a clear change in direction from the previous administration. If finalized, the changes will mean stronger protections for species and their habitats at a time when habitat destruction, exploitation, and climate change threaten their existence more than ever.”