Lummis, Newhouse Warn New ESA Rules Will Wreak Havoc Across the West

March 29, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Senate Western Caucus Chair Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and House Western Caucus Chair Dan Newhouse (R-WA) raised serious concerns about the Biden administration’s reversal of key reforms to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the Trump administration that increased stakeholder engagement, defined critical habitat and ensured species recovery plans were effective. The Biden administration’s new rules will empower D.C. bureaucrats to enact one-size fits all regulations and levy a hefty burden on landowners, businesses and workers throughout Wyoming and the west.

“The Biden administration rolling back key reforms to the Endangered Species Act puts radical environmentalists in the driver’s seat in determining the future of land use out west,” said Lummis. “Beyond giving D.C. bureaucrats the power to infringe on property rights and shut down good paying jobs, the reforms reject common sense in favor of big government regulations. These rules will not change the fact that less than 2% of species listed are recovered, but they will cost Wyoming and the west dearly.”

“The decision to reverse critical reforms to the ESA is yet another example of how the Biden Administration is beholden to extreme activists,” said Newhouse.“These misguided changes won’t improve the ESA’s goal of recovering species but will instead further impede on private landowners’ rights. The ESA needs true reforms to help save species without burdening rural communities, and the Congressional Western Caucus urges the Biden Administration to immediately reconsider this decision.”


The new rules put forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) undo three key reforms to the Endangered Species Act implemented by the Trump administration in 2019.
Blanket Rule Elimination

·  The 2019 reforms eliminated the “blanket rule” under Section 4(d) that automatically provides endangered level protections to species listed only as threatened and instead required threatened species to be managed with specifically tailored plans. 

·  The Biden proposal would reinstate the blanket rule, essentially treating all threatened species as endangered once again. 

Critical Habitat Changes

·  The 2019 reforms allowed FWS and NOAA to research and share the economic impacts of a listing determination under the ESA and provided flexibility in defining critical habitat. 

·  Under the Biden reversal, the agencies are no longer able to share or disseminate information on the economic impact of a listing and requires that unoccupied areas are designated as critical habitat. 

 Section 7 Changes

·  Among the numerous changes to Section 7, the 2019 reforms established standards to ensure analysis for proposed actions is limited to only “activities that are reasonably certain to occur” instead of using hypothetical worst-case scenarios that were unlikely to happen.

·  The Biden rule would eliminate this clarification and allow radical environmentalist to depart from the facts before them and use fear-mongering as a pre-tense for sweeping regulations.

On August 1, 2023, Senator Lummis sent a letter to FWS and NOAA asking for a comment period extension for the three rules that would roll back the Trump administration’s Endangered Species Act reforms.

On May 11, 2023, the United States Senate passed a Congressional Review Act resolution introduced by Senator Lummis that would overturn the Biden administration’s ESA rule related to critical habitat. The CRA is awaiting consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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