Endangered Species to Get a Reprieve Under Biden Administration Plans – Maryland
The lesser prairie-chicken, a rare dancing grouse once abundant on the Great Plains, could benefit again soon from the protection of the U.S. government.
So could the rusty patched bumblebee, a black-headed pollinator that at one time ranged from Georgia to Maine and across the Midwest.
And the piping plover, a small shorebird that’s listed as threatened in Maryland and endangered in the Great Lakes.
The Biden administration is rewriting how it protects endangered species — making significant shifts in regulations that could affect how habitat is kept safe for these and other imperiled birds, fish, insects, mammals and plants across the United States.
Biden administration officials announced this month that they would revisit five key regulations in the Endangered Species Act. In doing so, they will overturn changes the Trump administration had made to narrow the scope of the law and make it easier to approve development.
The revamped regulations could give stronger protection to some 2,700 species protected under the act. There
are dozens of candidates in some states, including 24 in Maryland.
Among those that could benefit are birds like the lesser prairie-chicken, which has declined 97 percent in the past century, largely due to habitat loss and fragmentation, some of which came from oil and gas development.
The Fish and Wildlife Service last month proposed listing it as threatened in Colorado and Kansas and endangered in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
Then there’s the rusty patched bumblebee, which has been reported in 13 states, including Maryland. It received endangered status in 2017, due to habitat loss, climate change and threat from pesticides.
But the government did not protect any critical habitat for the bee, a decision environmentalists sued to try to reverse.
Years of battles
The Biden administration’s regulatory reversals are the latest in years of tug-of-war between Democratic and Republican administrations over how to implement the Endangered Species Act, passed by Congress in 1973.
Environmentalists hail the landmark law as one of their most powerful tools and credit it for rescuing the American crocodile, gray wolf and bald eagle. Republicans have criticized it for becoming mired in lawsuits and land restrictions, while relatively few species graduate off the list.
Over the years, members of Congress have made several failed attempts to rewrite the act.
However, the Trump team was able to make significant changes to how it implemented the act through regulations that required no approval from Congress.
“The Trump administration changes significantly weakened the act, way beyond what was done in the past. They really moved away from Congress’ original intent of the law to protect any and all imperiled wildlife, animals or plants,” said Jacob Malcolm, director of the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders of Wildlife, a nonprofit that aims to find creative solutions to save species through research and policy.
Malcolm, a former Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, applauded the Biden team’s decision to reverse those moves and said it could potentially put species protection back on track.
The Trump administration sought to “ease the regulatory burden” of the Endangered Species Act. Its changes narrowed habitat protections, reducing both the timeline and area that could be…