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Biden administration reinstates protections for endangered species removed by Trump

BILLINGS, Mont. — On Thursday, the Biden administration reinstated regulations to safeguard threatened plants and animals that were previously removed by former President Donald Trump.

BILLINGS, Mont. — On Thursday, the Biden administration reinstated regulations to safeguard threatened plants and animals that were previously removed by former President Donald Trump.

One of the announced changes is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bringing back a long-standing rule that requires broad protections for species newly classified as threatened.

The regulation for broad protections was removed in 2019 as part of a series of modifications to the species law under Trump, which were supported by the industry. These changes occurred as extinctions worldwide increased due to habitat loss and other pressures.

Under the new regulations, officials will also not take into account economic impacts when determining if animals and plants require protection. Additionally, the rules from the wildlife service and National Marine Fisheries Service make it simpler to designate areas as critical for a species’ survival, even if it is no longer present in those locations.

The details of the proposed regulations, which may take a year to finalize, were obtained by The Associated Press prior to their public release.

Officials have stated that imperiled fish and freshwater mussels in the Southeast, where the aquatic animals are absent from parts of their historical range, are among the species that could benefit from the regulations.

Martha Williams, the Fish and Wildlife Service Director, said the changes in the rules emphasized the agency’s commitment to using the best available science to stop population declines as various factors threaten many species, including climate change, degraded and fragmented habitat, invasive species, and wildlife disease.

Environmentalists had voiced frustration at the delay in Biden's action on some of the Trump-era rollbacks. Their sense of urgency is fueled by the possibility of a new Republican administration following the 2024 election, which could once again relax protections.

Last year, the proposal of the rules faced strong opposition from Republican lawmakers, who claimed that President Joe Biden’s Democratic administration has hindered oil, gas, and coal development, and prioritizes conservation over development.

Industry groups have long seen the 1973 Endangered Species Act as a hindrance. Under Trump, they effectively lobbied to weaken the law’s regulations as part of a wide-ranging dismantling of environmental protections. Trump officials rolled back rules for endangered species and protections for the northern spotted owl, gray wolves, and other species.

The decision regarding the spotted owl was reversed in 2021 after officials stated that Trump’s political appointees used flawed science to justify opening millions of acres of West Coast forest to potential logging. Protections for wolves across most of the U.S. were reinstated by a federal court in 2021.

The Endangered Species Act is recognized for helping save the bald eagle, California condor, and numerous other animals and plants from extinction since it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1973. It currently safeguards over 1,600 species in the United States and its territories.

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