A federal district court this week 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 challenging rules put in place by the Trump administration in 2019.
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.
The federal agencies asked to partially rewrite Trump 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.
“The Services themselves concede that they ‘have substantial concerns with the 2019 ESA Rules, both with respect to certain substantive provisions as well as certain procedures that were utilized in promulgating these regulatory revisions,’” wrote federal Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern California District in his ruling.
“. . . as the Services themselves explain many times, leaving the regulations in place will cause equal or greater confusion, given the flaws in the drafting and promulgation of those regulations,” said Tigar.
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, as well as an animal welfare group.
The challengers said 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, an attorney at Earthjustice. “Threatened and endangered species do not have the luxury of waiting under rules that do not protect them.”
“Trump’s gutting of endangered species protections should have been rescinded on day one of the Biden presidency,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity.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 this court ruling, the Services can finally get on with the business of protecting and recovering imperiled species.”