Judge throws out Trump-era reforms to Endangered Species Act

A meltwater stonefly larva (Lednia tumana) sits on a cobbled snow fed stream in Montana's Glacier National Park. The species was designated as threatened by the Endangered Species Act in 2019. File Photo by Joe Giersch/USGS

July 6 (UPI) — A federal judge in California has thrown out major Trump-era regulation reforms that loosened protections for endangered animals.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar vacated the Trump administration’s 2019 overhaul to the Endangered Species Act that allowed the federal government to consider economic impacts of protecting animal and plant habitat as well as stripped away tools that forecast the likelihood that species will become endangered or extinct in the future.

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of several environmental groups in 2019, accusing the Trump administration of failing to publicly disclose and analyze the harms and impacts of its rules as well as violating the language and purpose of the Endangered Species Act.

“The Court spoke for species desperately in need of comprehensive federal protections without compromise,” Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles said in a statement. “Threatened and endangered species do not have the luxury of waiting under rules that do not protect them.”

The Trump administration had defended its overhaul as an easing or regulations that placed burden upon the public in line with those being taken throughout the federal government.

However, on his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to examine all environment and public health-related regulations issued under the previous administration with intent to either revise or rescind them where deemed appropriate.

In June of last year, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with the National Marine Fisheries Service announced its intent to rescind one of the moves made by the Trump administration while revising another, and the environmental groups agreed to a series of stays to allow that to occur.

Once those litigation moves ended, the Biden administration filed a motion to stay when Earthjustice would not voluntarily agree to further delay.

When the judged denied the Biden administration’s motion in October, Earthjustice asked the court to throw out the Trump-era reforms.

As part of his ruling Tuesday, Tigar wrote that neither the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nor the National Marine Fisheries Service have “evinced any desire to keep the 2019 ESA Rules intact” and, in fact, have announced their intention to rescind and revise them.

“Accordingly, on this record, the Court has no difficulty in concluding that ‘fundamental flaws in the agency’s decision make it unlikely that the same rule[s] would be adopted on remand,'” he wrote, while quoting an earlier decision as precedent.

Tigar continued that there also doesn’t appear to be any serious or irremediable harm caused by vacating them.

The Biden administration had argued more time was necessary as nixing the rules “would cause confusion among the public, other angelicas and stakeholders.”

However, Tigar wrote that the services have themselves explained on several occasions that “leaving the regulations in place will cause equal or greater confusion, given the flaws in the drafting and promulgation of those regulations.”

The services, he added, have also already announced their intention to re-examing and revise the regulations.

“In so doing, they put the public on notice that the regulations’ existence in their current form is unlikely,” he said.

Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement Tuesday that “Trump’s gutting of endangered species protections should have been rescinded on day one of the Biden presidency.

“With today’s court ruling, the services can finally get on with the business of protecting and recovering imperiled species.”


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