Conservation groups applauded a federal district court ruling Tuesday that reinstated protections for endangered species which the Trump administration had severely weakened in 2019, calling the decision “a win for wildlife protection.”
The U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California “spoke for species desperately in need of comprehensive federal protections without compromise,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney at Earthjustice, which filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump-era rules on behalf of groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, and Wild Earth Guardians.
The Trump administration angered environmental justice advocates in 2019 when it finalized a series of sweeping rollbacks to the Endangered Species Act.
Trump administration officials at that time stipulated that “potential threats to business opportunities” must be considered and shared with the public before a species is listed as endangered and reduced the number of habitats set aside for vulnerable wildlife, among other rules.
Once in office, Biden administration officials including Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service filed a remand motion in response to the lawsuit asking the court to allow them to partially rewrite former President Donald Trump’s rules while keeping the rest of the order broadly in place.
In his Tuesday decision, U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar ruled that the regulations should be vacated instead.
Tigar’s ruling will help resolve “an unlawful and irrational mess that undermined critical protections for wildlife,” said Karimah Schoenhut, an 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,” Schoenhut added.
The Biden administration will now have “a clean slate to safeguard hundreds of species amidst the ongoing extinction crisis” instead of adhering to “unscientific and illegal Trump rules,” said Mike Senatore, vice president of conservation law for Defenders of Wildlife.
“We are all impacted by biodiversity loss and combating it must be a priority,” he added.
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