Interior Department takes action to strengthen Endangered Species Act
New proposed regulations help kick off 50th anniversary celebration of landmark conservation law
WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior today announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a new rule to strengthen voluntary conservation opportunities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed rule would revise permitting under Section 10 of the Act to promote species conservation through voluntary agreements and make the process clearer, easier and more efficient.
The announcement comes as the Endangered Species Act turns 50 years old in 2023. Throughout the year, the department will celebrate the importance of the ESA in preventing the extinction of imperiled species, promoting the recovery of wildlife and conserving the habitats upon which they depend.
“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, it’s critical that we reflect on the lessons learned from implementing this landmark conservation law and assess what the next 50 years of species conservation should look like,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “A collaborative approach to the biodiversity and extinction crises will advance the goals of the President’s America the Beautiful initiative and set us on a course for continued recovery and resilience.”
“It’s more important than ever to incorporate the knowledge gained from working with landowners and conservation partners in developing and permitting voluntary conservation agreements,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “These improvements will assist landowners who want to manage their lands and undertake development activities while also implementing conservation efforts for species that need help.”
The ESA provides for the protection of ecosystems, the conservation of endangered and threatened species, and the enforcement of all treaties related to wildlife preservation. This landmark law has been highly effective and credited with saving 99% of listed species from extinction. Thus far, more than 100 species of plants and animals have been delisted based on recovery or reclassified from endangered to threatened based on improved conservation status, and hundreds more species are stable or improving thanks to the collaborative actions of Tribes, federal agencies, state and local governments, conservation organizations and private citizens.
ESA Section 10 permits have long been used to encourage Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances and Safe Harbor Agreements, which are voluntary landowner agreements designed to benefit candidates or listed species, respectively. They have also been used to permit the take of listed species incidental to private development activities. ESA Section 10 permits allow for a variety of activities, some of which can benefit endangered species through innovation.
This rule proposes changes to the Service’s permitting regulations to encourage more individuals and companies to engage in these voluntary programs, thereby generating greater conservation results overall. The Service also proposes technical and administrative changes to the regulations to reduce costs and time associated with negotiating and developing the required documents to support permit applications. These revisions do not significantly change the current implementation of the Section 10 program and do not expand the reach of species protections.
Section 10 of the ESA provides a voluntary mechanism authorizing the take of listed and non-listed species associated with beneficial conservation actions or otherwise lawful activities. With some exceptions, the law prohibits taking protected species and their habitats unless authorized by a permit from the Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The Service is committed to conserving our nation’s biodiversity, and stemming the ongoing extinction crisis is a central component of the Biden-Harris administration’s America the Beautiful initiative. One of the initiative’s goals is to enhance wildlife habitat and improve biodiversity—potentially preventing listings and assisting with species recovery.
Information provided by Interior Department
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