Senate Curbs Endangered Species Protections

Bald Eagle | Image by Steve Boice, Shutterstock

The Senate voted in favor of two resolutions last week that would overturn the Biden administration’s regulations pertaining to the safeguarding of endangered and threatened species within the United States.

Two votes of 51-49 among Senators — those in favor being Republicans plus a few moderate Democrats — on May 11 approved two Congressional Review Act resolutions dismantling two endangered species protection policies introduced by President Joe Biden, according to the Washington Examiner.

One of the two policies was criticized for being too expansive in defining the term “habitat” for regulatory application.

Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), who introduced this resolution, explained that more clarity is needed.

“Two-thirds of all endangered species are located on private lands. For these species to be recovered, private landowners must be part of the solution and not treated as the enemy,” Lummis argued, according to AP News.

The Biden administration’s definition of habitat was drafted in line with guidelines from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). It replaced the one drafted by the Trump administration in late 2020, which had been criticized as being too narrow.

A joint press release from NOAA Fisheries and FSW suggested last year that the definition presented in 2020 “was unclear, confusing, and inconsistent with the conservation purposes of the [Endangered Species Act].”

The second policy targeted by the recently passed resolutions aimed at protecting the northern long-eared bat, which the FSW classified as threatened late last year when the species was hit by a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome, according to AP News.

Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) introduced the resolution, arguing that the rule would cause unwarranted disruptions of commercial land uses since the bat species’ “threatened” classification was no longer relevant.

“I am strongly against one-size-fits-all regulation from Washington bureaucrats, and this is no different,” Mullin argued, according to a press release from his office.

The Biden administration plans to veto the new resolutions if they pass the House, countering that they are crucial to safeguarding endangered and threatened species.

“We are in the midst of a global extinction crisis for which the chief driver is the destruction, degradation, and loss of habitat,” read a statement from the White House, according to AP News.

Some conservation groups were alarmed by the Senate applying the Congressional Review Act to environmental rules, which is typically the domain of NOAA Fisheries and FWS.

“Unprecedented is really the word that comes to mind,” said Robert Dewey, vice president of government relations at Defenders of Wildlife, according to the Hill. “Over the years, the use of the [Congressional Review Act] has been used to review a limited number of regulatory actions but has never previously been used on the Endangered Species Act.”

States sometimes butt heads against the measures taken by FWS and NOAA Fisheries when it comes to safeguarding endangered species.

As The Dallas Express covered previously, a great deal of debate has surrounded the lesser-prairie chicken, a wild bird native to the southern plains.

The lesser-prairie chicken was first designated as endangered by the FWS in 2014, but this was reversed after a lawsuit was filed by the Permian Basin Petroleum Association. Recently, the FWS listed the bird as endangered once again due to an observed decline in its numbers.

In response, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton questioned what he called the overreach of this federation designation and officially filed a lawsuit against both the FWS and the Department of the Interior in March.

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