The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the finalization of rules that will change the way the FWS administers the Endangered Species Act. These rules, announced today, August 9, were first proposed over a year ago on July 25, 2018. They are intended to reduce ambiguities in the Endangered Species Act. These ambiguities have made it possible for anti-hunting groups to fill the courts with litigation challenges to the delisting of recovered species.
The revised rules include a provision that clarifies that the criteria for delistings are the same as those for listing species on the threatened or endangered species lists. In the absence of this clarification, courts have imposed burdens on the FWS for the delisting of species, far beyond those required by the drafters of the ESA. These judicially created additional hurdles have thwarted the FWS’s attempts to delist gray wolves, grizzly bears and other species.
Last year, SCI submitted comments on the proposed regulatory changes. In our comments, we said: “SCI is encouraged to see that, in the proposed revisions, the Service has found ways to reduce the ambiguities in the regulations that currently inhibit and undermine the Service’s efforts to delist recovered species and avoid the need to list species that would not benefit from federally protected status.”
Upon learning of the finalization of these rules, SCI CEO W. Laird Hamberlin said, “We appreciate the hard work this administration has done in addressing the obvious problems with the ESA. Work that has focused the ESA on the spirit of the law and to ensure it is a tool used to enhance species health rather than as a weapon for a political agenda. SCI hopes that this is the first of many greatly needed efforts to reform and improve the ESA and the regulations that administer the law.”
“SCI looks forward to working with the FWS, Congress and the hunting community to make changes like the rules announced today that will make sure that states have the opportunity to manage recovered species and to use hunting for that management,” Hamberlin concluded.