Washington Report

Advocacy Updates from Washington D.C.

New Rules Reform ESA Implementation

The Department of Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service have recently released new regulations that reform and streamline how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. These modifications will allow for a more effective administration of Sections 4 and 7 of the ESA and address some of the uncertainty and lack of predictability in current implementation of the law. In addition, the rules provide landowners and the regulated community certainty in how they undertake their day-to-day activities in a manner that protects and recovers imperiled species and critical habitat. NAR supported these changes in a comment letter as a member of the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition (NESARC).

The regulations change how Section 4 is implemented, which focuses on listing species and designating critical habitat. In particular, designation of unoccupied critical habitat has increasingly become a significant issue for landowners. The final rule clarifies the evaluation of unoccupied areas for classification of critical habitat by first requiring consideration of occupied areas and then requiring that unoccupied areas contain one or more physical or biological features that are essential to the conservation of the species.

Improvements to the Section 7 consultation regulations address some of the fundamental problems that have been widely identified over the years. The consultation process has not worked for species, the federal government, or the regulated community for decades. The final rule implements a number of needed revisions to streamline the process for project proponents and clarifies key definitions that have been difficult to implement.
Letter to the House Natural Resources Committee