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The Biden administration recently strengthened protections of the Endangered Species Act by repealing Trump-era rules that had removed safeguards for threatened plants and animals. The new regulations will reinstate protections for species listed as threatened with extinction in addition to those listed as endangered, considering the threat of climate change. The rules finalized a provision that agencies cannot consider the economic impact of listing species as threatened or endangered, aiming to conserve imperiled species for future generations. However, the rules are likely to face legal challenges from industry groups and Republican states.
Drew Caputo, of the environmental law firm Earthjustice, stated that while the new rules are an improvement from the Trump administration rollbacks, they do not fully restore the protections from the Obama era. One concerning aspect is the provision that agencies must demonstrate “reasonable certainty” of harm to a species, giving them leeway to not list certain species. Caputo highlighted the uncertainty of the future impact on species and the importance of providing stronger protections for species on the brink of extinction.
Industry groups, such as the National Mining Association, criticized the changes for being too restrictive, stating that the Endangered Species Act is used as a tool to impose unnecessary development restrictions. The rules cover species on land and in the seas and were developed within the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, focusing on mitigating ongoing threats such as altered ecosystems due to climate change.
NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Janet Coit emphasized the importance of addressing ongoing threats like climate change in protecting endangered species. While acknowledging the role of climate change, Caputo highlighted that habitat destruction by humans is the main driver of species extinction, emphasizing the need for stronger conservation efforts. The global ocean temperatures reached historic levels in 2023, causing coral reef bleaching and continued marine heat waves, signaling the urgent need for conservation measures to protect endangered species.

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