Major Reform to the Endangered Species Act

Posted By: Sydni Dobson (deleted) SLMA News,

From SLMA's Environmental Counsel at Kilpatrick Townsend:

On August 12, 2019, the Department of the Interior finalized a series of rules, originally proposed last Fall, to significantly revise the process and factors to be used when considering ESA listing decisions. Among other things, the rule would impact the following key issues within the ESA program:

  • Agencies will be allowed to solicit and consider economic impact data as part of a species' listing decision;  
  • An agencies' consideration of unoccupied areas as potential critical habitat for a species will be limited to situations where there is inadequate occupied habitat; and
  • Species designated as "threatened" will no longer be required to receive the same level and types of protections as "endangered" species.  
  • The concept of the "foreseeable future" will be shortened in time and scope such that potential threats to a species such as climate change are no longer required to be considered.

The changes to the ESA would only impact future listing decisions. It is expected that the rules will be published in the federal register within a few weeks. As reported in the monthly SLMA Regulatory Update, SLMA joined the Forest Landowners Association in comments supporting the rule last fall. Multiple states and environmental groups have already indicated that they will challenge the rules in court.