On July 25, 2018, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (the “Services”) published three proposed rules to reform the Endangered Species Act. This opens a 60-day public comment period ending September 24, 2018.  The proposals respond in part to stakeholder comments submitted to FWS last year as a result of Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda.”

As proposed, the revised regulations would streamline and harmonize the processes for listing species as threatened and endangered and for designating critical habitat, require species-specific rulemaking to extend the ESA’s protections to new species listed as “threatened,” and simplify and modernize the Section 7 consultation process for activities requiring federal authorization or funding. The proposed reforms would be a boon to project proponents affected by the Endangered Species Act, including energy, transportation, water, infrastructure, and land development.

The July 25 Federal Register includes three separate notices for three separate proposed rules. One proposes to reform the interagency consultation process under Section 7 of the Act, which is a significant source of delay for many federal permits. Another seeks to clarify the criteria for listing and delisting protected species and for designating critical habitat. The third would remove default protections now afforded “threatened” species regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which currently receive the same level of protection as “endangered” species.

Full Article HERE.