Western Caucus Members Introduce Legislation to Overturn Onerous Biden ESA Rules

Today, Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Representatives Harriet Hageman (WY-AL) and John Duarte (CA-13) introduced Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions to overturn the Biden Administration’s recent rule updates to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These changes from the current administration reverse critical reforms to the ESA implemented during previous administrations.
“The Biden Administration’s ESA rule reversals were a political handout to extreme environmentalists at the expense of better species management and private landowners,” said Chairman Newhouse. “Rather than egregious rule changes that will add to the federal bureaucracy while creating hardships for rural communities, the ESA needs common sense reforms to make the law work better for both species and landowners alike. I’m proud to introduce legislation to reverse these rules alongside Western Caucus Members to stop the Biden Administration’s continued weaponization of the ESA.”
“Two things are needed in order to adequately recover and manage endangered species across the United States: greater transparency and less federal bureaucracy,” said Rep. Hageman. “Yet once again these latest rules from the Biden Administration accomplish the exact opposite, handicapping local and state management agencies in the process. By reinstituting blanket protections on non-endangered species, mandating needless critical habitat designations with no justification, and ignoring the economic impact of such designations, the individuals on the ground actually conducting species management are prevented from ensuring the flourishing of ecosystems as a whole. These rules take species conservation in the wrong direction and punish our landowners; as such I’ve introduced these CRA resolutions to prevent these ill-designed rules from taking effect.” 
“The Biden Administration has unfortunately continued to expand regulations on the Endangered Species Act, while ignoring science and factual evidence of species restoration. These recent rules by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service show that the Biden Administration is choosing to overregulate rather than conserve and protect endangered species with common sense practices,” said Rep. Duarte. “I am proud to lead legislation that seeks to rein in the Biden Administration’s overreach.”

Full text of the CRA introduced by Chairman Newhouse to overturn the Biden Administration’s “blanket rule” can be found here. Full text of the CRA’s introduced by Rep. Hageman to strike down Biden's Endangered Species Act Critical Habitat rules can be found here and here. Full Text of the CRA’s introduced by Rep. Duarte to strike down Biden's Endangered Species Act Interagency Cooperation rules can be found here and here.
In 2019, The Trump Administration finalized key changes to the ESA that added more flexibility for affected stakeholders while also ensuring species’ recovery plans take a tailored and targeted approach. In March 2024, the Biden Administration overturned these revisions.
Blanket Rule Elimination

  • The 2019 revisions eliminated the “blanket rule” under Section 4(d) that automatically provides endangered level protections to species listed only as threatened. 
  • Now, Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are required to manage threatened species with specifically tailored plans, leading to less flexibility for landowners and stakeholders. 
  • The Biden proposal reinstates the blanket rule, essentially treating all threatened species as endangered once again. 

Critical Habitat Changes

  • The 2019 revisions allowed FWS and NOAA to research and share the economic impacts of a listing determination under the ESA. 
  • It also provides flexibility in defining critical habitat, allowing the agencies leeway to only designate unoccupied areas as critical habitat if necessary. 
  • Under the Biden revision, the agencies are no longer able to share or disseminate information on the economic impact of a listing.
  • More alarmingly, the revision mandates the agencies must again designate unoccupied areas as critical habitat. 

Section 7 Changes

  • Among the numerous changes to Section 7, the rule established standards to ensure effects analysis for proposed actions is limited to only “activities that are reasonably certain to occur.”
  • This took away the leeway for agencies to assume worst case scenarios for a species without “clear and substantial information” and was intended to provide a more realistic and flexible approach to benefitting a listed species. 
  • The Biden rule eliminated this clarification. 

On September 14, 2023, Chairman Newhouse introduced legislation to prevent the Departments of the Interior and Commerce from finalizing these rule proposals and retain the Trump-era regulations within the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

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