Biden administration moves to restore endangered species protections abandoned by Trump

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Biden administration was expected to propose new rules on Wednesday to protect endangered plants and animals that would reverse changes under former President Donald Trump that weakened the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to reinstate decades-old regulations that mandate the protection of species newly listed as endangered. This measure was dropped under Trump as part of a series of industry-backed cash law changes.

Under Wednesday’s proposal, officials would also drop consideration of economic impacts when deciding whether animals and plants need protection. Another change would expand requirements for federal agencies to consult with the wildlife service or the National Marine Fisheries Service before taking actions that could affect threatened or endangered species.

Details of the proposal were obtained by The Associated Press ahead of their public release.

Under Trump, officials rolled back rules and endangered species protections for the northern spotted owl, gray wolves and other species. It will take months for Wednesday’s proposal to be finalized.

The Biden administration previously reversed Trump’s decision to weaken enforcement of the century-old Migratory Bird Treaty law, which made it harder to prosecute bird deaths caused by the energy industry. Officials under Biden also withdrew a 2020 rule that limited the lands and waters that could be designated as places where endangered animals and plants could receive federal protection.

Industry groups and Republicans in Congress have long viewed the Endangered Species Act as an obstacle to economic development, and under Trump they have successfully lobbied to weaken the law’s regulations.

Many of the changes under Trump were finalized in his final weeks in office, leaving little time for the Republican administration to implement them.

Biden administration officials say they are trying to align the 1973 Endangered Species Act with its original intent and purpose.

Environmentalists have been frustrated that it has taken Biden more than two years to act on some of the Trump-era rollbacks. Adding to their urgency, the prospect of a new Republican administration after the 2024 election could once again roll back protections.

A range of industry groups have long argued that economic impacts are not sufficiently considered in US government decisions on wildlife. These groups range from livestock and ranching organizations to trade associations representing oil, gas and mining interests.

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