A federal judge in California has overturned a 2019 Trump administration move to gut the landmark Endangered Species Act, vacating that administration’s changes and restoring protections for hundreds of species.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in Northern California comes as the Biden administration is working on replacement rules for the Trump rollbacks and means the protections will be restored while the review process continues.
“The court spoke for species desperately in need of comprehensive federal protections without compromise,” Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles said in a statement from the plaintiffs emailed to EcoWatch. “Threatened and endangered species do not have the luxury of waiting under rules that do not protect them.”
Earthjustice represented the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association, Wild Earth Guardians and the Humane Society of the United States in a lawsuit to block the Trump regulations passed in 2019. The lawsuit targeted five regulations in particular.
- Removed the “blanket rule” giving threatened species the same protections as endangered species.
- Made it harder to protect species from the climate crisis by giving the government more wiggle room in how it interpreted the phrase “foreseeable future.”
- Made it easier to delist species.
- Allowed regulators to consider the economic impact of offering protections to a species.
- Made it harder to list new species and protect their critical habitat.
When President Joe Biden took office, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service said they would work on new regulations. However, this process can take months to years. In the meantime, the services asked the court to remand the case in December of 2021, according to the plaintiffs. However, the judge decided to vacate the Trump regulations instead.
“Regardless of whether this Court vacates the 2019 [Endangered Species Act] Rules, they will not remain in effect in their current form,” Tigar wrote in his ruling.
The plaintiffs applauded Tigar’s decision, which restores protections to hundreds of species.
“Trump’s gutting of endangered species protections should have been rescinded on day one of the Biden presidency,” Center for Biological Diversity endangered species director Noah Greenwald said in the statement. “With this court ruling, the Services can finally get on with the business of protecting and recovering imperiled species.”
An Interior Department spokesperson said the agency was now reviewing the ruling.
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