The Trump Administration has proposed new regulations that would limit the circumstances under which unoccupied habitat can be designated as “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act. However, FLA is concerned that these new regulations would still allow actions like the one in the Weyerhaeuser vs USFWS case to continue to happen.

We urge the administration to take a stricter stance on this issue by restricting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ability to designate habitat that is unoccupied by a threatened, at-risk, or endangered species.

FLA Comments on USFWS’s Proposed Regulatory Rollback

On September 25, FLA submitted technical comments to the Federal Register providing the private forest landowner perspective on three proposed rules that would modify several current regulations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If approved, the proposed regulations would be significant for landowners whose forestlands provide the habitat for many at-risk, threatened, and endangered species. FLA’s comments supported the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s efforts to streamline the implementation of the ESA, while also suggesting further reforms that would help to relieve the burden on private landowners.

The proposed regulatory changes would:

  • Give “threatened species” a new definition, limiting the scope of threats weighed in the listing decision to those which are probable in the foreseeable future.
  • Remove the “blanket rule” that applies all prohibitions regarding endangered species to threatened species, shifting the burden to USFWS to define prohibitions for threatened species on a case-by-case basis subject to the rulemaking process
  • Limit the circumstances under which unoccupied habitat can be designated as critical habitat
  • Streamline the de-listing process
  • Restructure the inter-agency consultation process for federal agencies taking actions that may affect listed species more easily dispose of certain listing petitions. The panel adopted an amendment to the bill that would allow petitioners to pay a fee to expedite consideration of their application.