Interior Department to Implement Endangered Species Revisions

The Interior Department Monday announced the implementation of revisions to the Endangered Species Act which deal with listing and critical habitat, threatened species protection, and interagency consultation.

The changes direct ESA listings to be determined “solely on the basis of scientific and commercial information,” and clarifies standards for delisting and reclassification. When designating critical habitat, the new regulations reinstate the requirement that areas where threatened or endangered species are present at the time of listing be evaluated first before unoccupied areas are considered.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council welcomed the final rule. Public Lands Council President Bob Skinner says, “Common sense will once again be inserted into the ESA process.” The Natural Resources Defense Council calls the changes a “drastic rollback” of the ESA, which make it “harder to protect plants and animals.”

Barring court action, the rules package will officially take effect following a 30-day objection period.