Certain decisions on important wildlife habitats have been returned to the Interior Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday, as the last remaining Trump-era changes to Endangered Species Act regulations were rescinded.
According to The Hill, the Fish and Wildlife Service was required to accept private landowners' claims that designating an area as protected habitat would cause economic harm under the Trump rule. Prior to the Trump administration's change, decisions on wildlife habitat were made by the Interior secretary, and that authority has been restored.
Environmental groups hailed the decision on Wednesday.
"We are thrilled to see the Biden administration take this important step towards restoring Endangered Species Act protections," Andrew Carter, senior conservation policy analyst for Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement. "Our health and well-being depends on our nation's rich biodiversity, and the Biden administration needs to keep taking every possible step to shore up the law responsible for saving it, including developing a national biodiversity strategy."
Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Hill, "Under Trump's rule, a landowner could have ludicrously claimed they planned to build the next Taj Mahal or Disneyland on their property to avoid it being protected as critical habitat."
"I'm grateful this rule was repealed and that some semblance of common sense has been restored to protecting essential habitat for our endangered plants and animals," he added.
The agency's announcement comes after a federal judge threw out another Trump Endangered Species Act rule in early July, that stated equal protections did not apply to endangered species and those listed as threatened or likely to become endangered.
Last month, the Biden administration also repealed a separate Trump-era rule that placed more stringent limitations on what qualifies as critical habitat. The Trump administration's definition included areas that can currently support species, and stopped short of including areas that could later support them.
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