October 25, 2019

As legal challenges loom, impact of new Endangered Species Act rules remains uncertain

James Rusk and Daniel Maroon

In August 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (together the Services) finalized amendments to the federal regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act (ESA), after receiving more than 200,000 public comments, and more than a year after the Services formally proposed the changes. The final rules include nearly all of the key changes the Services proposed in July 2018, including the elimination of automatic protections for species newly listed as threatened, changes to the standards for designating unoccupied critical habitat, and revisions to the procedures for interagency consultation. But, with environmental advocacy groups already challenging the rules in federal court, and significant questions about how the Services will implement the new provisions, the impact of the closely watched rulemakings remains uncertain.

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