WASHINGTON—Today, in a win for wildlife protection and conservation, a federal district court restored comprehensive Endangered Species Act regulatory protections to hundreds of species and the places they call home. The Services filed a voluntary remand motion in December 2021 in response to a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of 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 challenging harmful rules put in place by the Trump administration in 2019. The Services asked to partially rewrite flawed Endangered Species Act regulations while keeping them in place during a rulemaking process that could take years to complete. The Court disagreed and vacated the 2019 ESA regulations instead.
Conservation groups challenged the Trump administration rules for undermining protections for imperiled species and habitat necessary for their survival, and their lawsuit was joined by a group of states, led by California, and an animal welfare group.
The Trump rules threatened to upend decades of clarity and protections for hundreds of species that have benefited from the established policy.
“The Court spoke for species desperately in need of comprehensive federal protections without compromise,” said Kristen Boyles, attorney at Earthjustice. “Threatened and endangered species do not have the luxury of waiting under rules that do not protect them.”
“Today’s decision puts these dangerous and shortsighted rollbacks in the dustbin where they belong,” said Nicholas Arrivo, managing attorney for animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States. “Americans overwhelmingly support the ESA because it’s effectively prevented the extinction of our most vulnerable species like the bald eagle, humpback whale and grizzly bear. Now the Administration can ensure that the law continues to do so.”
“Trump’s gutting of endangered species protections should have been rescinded on day one of the Biden presidency,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With today’s court ruling, the Services can finally get on with the business of protecting and recovering imperiled species.”
"The 2019 rollbacks to the ESA regulations were an unlawful and irrational mess that undermined critical protections for wildlife," said Karimah Schoenhut, attorney for the Sierra Club. "In the midst of a global extinction crisis, the court's decision to vacate the rules will help ensure that imperiled species receive the protections they desperately need."
“The Trump Administration’s assault on the nation’s most important wildlife protection law made no sense at the time—and even less now as we see a biodiversity crisis unfolding globally with more clarity each day,” said Rebecca Riley, managing director of the nature program at NRDC. “The court’s decision ensures that the previous Administration’s ‘extinction package’ will be rolled back so that the ESA can do its job: preventing the extinction of vulnerable species.”
“Today brought a key piece of Trump’s attack on imperiled species and the Endangered Species Act to an end,” said Mike Senatore, vice president of conservation law for Defenders of Wildlife. “Instead of being bound by unscientific and illegal Trump rules, we are thrilled that the Biden Administration will have a clean slate to safeguard hundreds of species amidst the ongoing extinction crisis. We are all impacted by biodiversity loss and combating it must be a priority.”
“This decision is a win for America’s most at-risk wildlife, including species in national park ecosystems,” said Bart Melton, wildlife program director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “We are grateful for the court’s restoration of protections that were removed by the previous administration. The climate crisis continues and it’s critical that the Biden administration as well as conservationists, Tribes, states and communities work together to conserve America’s most imperiled species.”
“The Trump Administration’s weakened rules were misguided and dangerous for wildlife,” said Joe Bushyhead, endangered species attorney with WildEarth Guardians. “We’re relieved that threatened and endangered species and their habitat once again have full protection under the Endangered Species Act.”
- Sierra Club: Medhini Kumar