Court nixes Trump-era rules loosening endangered species protections


(The Hill) – A federal court on Tuesday reinstated endangered species protections that were loosened under the Trump administration. 

Judge Jon Tigar, an Obama appointee, vacated the rules in question. 

Under the Trump rules, the Fish and Wildlife Service no longer provided the same protections to species that are considered threatened  — those that are likely to become endangered — as they do for species that are endangered.

The rules also would have allowed for the consideration of economic impacts in deciding whether to protect a species. Conservationists additionally raised concerns that the rules could limit the consideration of climate change. 

The Trump administration’s changes faced significant resistance from environmentalists, who brought the lawsuit. 

“The whole point of the Endangered Species Act is to give protections to species that are on the brink of extinction,” Kristen Boyles, an attorney at Earthjustice, told The Hill.

“The Trump rules that have today been repealed did nothing to help species and in fact did affirmative harm to how species are protected in this country,” Boyles added. “By the court ruling today, we go back to the regulatory interpretation that had been in place for over 40 years.”

The Trump administration said at the time it finalized the changes that it was “easing the regulatory burden on the American public.”

Last year, the Biden administration had asked the court to order a second look at the Trump rules, but did not ask the court to nix the changed rules in the meantime. 

It said that getting rid of the Trump rules while it reassesses them “would cause confusion … by abruptly altering the applicable regulatory framework and creating uncertainty about which standards to apply.” 

Nevertheless, in the case, Tigar argued that since the Biden administration has indicated that it would reevaluate the regulations, it “seems doubtful” that getting rid of them entirely would add to the confusion. 

Interior Department spokesperson Tyler Cherry said that the department was “reviewing the decision” when asked for comment.

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