Environmental Policy News

NOAA Fisheries and the US Fish and Wildlife Service Propose Revisions to Regulations Implementing the Endangered Species Act

New jointly proposed changes will improve the agencies’ ability to conserve and recover listed species. Comments on the proposed rules are due by August 21,2023.

During this 50th anniversary year of the Endangered Species Act, NOAA Fisheries and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are proposing a series of revisions to the joint regulations that guide their implementation of this landmark statute.

These revisions are published as two proposed rules. One proposed rule addresses the listing, delisting, and reclassification of species, as well as the designation of critical habitats. The second proposed rule addresses federal consultations under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.

The proposed changes are intended to improve both agencies’ ability to fulfill their responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act to protect and recover listed species.

Clarifying Standards for Listing, Delisting, and Reclassifying Species

This rule proposes to reinstate prior language reflecting congressional intent that listing, reclassification, and delisting determinations must be made “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination.” This language makes clear that any economic impacts stemming from the listing, reclassifying, or delisting of a species cannot be considered when making classification decisions. Additional changes to the implementing regulations would improve the transparency of the listing process and revise some of the criteria for designating critical habitat.

Improving the Interagency Consultation Process

This rule proposes to revise language, definitions, and responsibilities to further clarify and improve the federal interagency consultation processes, including revising the scope of reasonable and prudent measures in an incidental take statement to improve conservation outcomes.

Both agencies are committed to applying the best available science when implementing the Endangered Species Act. That includes making listing and delisting decisions, designating critical habitat, and consulting on federal actions.

The Endangered Species Act has successfully prevented the extinction of more than 99 percent of its protected species. This landmark legislation is a powerful and effective tool for conserving species and their habitats. Under the Act, NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the protection, conservation, and recovery of more than 160 endangered and threatened marine and anadromous species and their habitats.

The proposed rules will be subject to public review and comment, and all comments will be carefully considered before final rules are published. NOAA Fisheries encourages interested parties to submit comments during the 60-day public comment period, which will be open from June 22, 2023, to August 21, 2023.

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