Attorney General Bonta Co-Leads Coalition in Support of Federal Efforts to Restore Endangered Species Act Protections for Habitat
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, co-leading a multistate coalition, filed comments in support of the Biden Administration’s proposal to rescind two Trump-era rules that would drastically reduce the designation of critical habitat under the federal Endangered Species Act. In California, there are over 300 species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act — more than any other mainland state — as well as millions of acres of designated critical habitat. In the comments, the coalition argues, as it has in ongoing litigation, that these rules, finalized in the last days of the Trump Administration, violate the Endangered Species Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act and should be rescinded.
“California’s biodiversity and wildlife are unsurpassed, but increasingly at risk as climate-fueled weather events threaten to drive certain species to extinction,” said Attorney General Bonta. “As we reflect on all we have to be thankful for this year, we must also remember our responsibility to protect the resources we have today for the generations that will come tomorrow. I support the Biden Administration’s proposal to rescind these unlawful midnight rules, and urge the federal government to renew its commitment to protecting our endangered species.”
Enacted under the Nixon Administration in 1973, the Endangered Species Act is intended “to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.” Under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is responsible for listing species as “endangered” or “threatened” and designating “critical habitat” for each such species based on “the best scientific data available” and after considering economic, national security, and other relevant impacts. Areas designated as critical habitat are provided with significant protections to ensure that species have the ability to recover to sustainable population levels so that they no longer need to be listed.
In the final days of the Trump Administration, FWS finalized two rules that would drastically reduce the amount of habitat protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The first rule added a new, restrictive definition of “habitat” to regulations for making critical habitat designations, while the second established a new, unlawful process for excluding areas from critical habitat designations.
Attorney General Bonta, along with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, is leading a coalition in challenging these rules in court, and now urges the Biden Administration to finalize its rescission of the two rules without delay. Attorney General Bonta further urges the Biden Administration to work to address the significant threats posed by habitat destruction and degradation and climate change in order to fulfill the Endangered Species Act’s fundamental purposes of protecting imperiled species and supporting their full recovery.
In filing the comment letter, Attorneys General Bonta, Frosh, and Healey are joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as the City of New York.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.