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Feds’ new rule will destroy needed habitat for imperiled species


Date: February 5, 2016

Contact: Melanie Gade, mgade@defenders.org. (202) 772-0288

Feds’ new rule will destroy needed habitat for imperiled species 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) today announced a new rule which solidifies their current practice of freely permitting federal actions which destroy imperiled species’ critical habitat.

Under the Endangered Species Act, all federal agencies are required to consult with the FWS or NMFS to ensure that projects are not likely to “jeopardize” a species or “destroy or adversely modify” critical habitat. The new rule makes it virtually impossible to protect critical habitat for endangered species, allowing the continual loss of habitat until only the last few acres remain. The result will be the continued spiraling decline in critical habitat, accelerating the decline of endangered species by a thousand little cuts.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife issued the following statement:

“This is beyond disappointing. This ruling creates an enormous loophole for development and gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service room to drive a truck through and over endangered species protection under the Endangered Species Act. This is a huge blow to protecting critical habitat for listed species since it will now be a death by a thousand cuts by developers and federal agencies. 

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service are turning their backs on the pressing need for conserving critical habitat, particularly for those species that were listed because of habitat loss. This sets a new low threshold for the implementation of the Endangered Species Act.”

Background:  In December, staff employed by Defenders of Wildlife published a peer-reviewed paper that raised questions about how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has implemented the Section 7 consultation requirements under the ESA over the past seven years. The analysis found that since 2008, not one of over 88,000 projects the FWS consulted on was stopped because the agency concluded it would result in the “destruction or adverse modification” of critical habitat, which strongly suggests that current practices are insufficient. 

Today’s rule solidifies and reinforces the Service’s current practice of green-lighting the destruction of critical habitat in the consultation process.


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