U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finalizes Changes to Voluntary Endangered Species Act Programs and Related Permitting Process

On Friday, April 12, 2024, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) issued a Final Rule making changes to 50 CFR part 13 to clarify and expedite the process for issuing enhancement of survival permits and incidental take permits pursuant to Section 10(a)(1)(A) and (B), respectively, of the Endangered Species Act. The regulatory changes are intended to provide the Service greater flexibility in implementing the permitting process and generate greater conservation results by encouraging additional engagement in voluntary programs associated with these permits, including safe harbor agreements (SHAs), candidate conservation agreements with assurances (CCAAs), and habitat conservation plans (HCPs).


U.S. Wildlife Agencies Propose Rules to Reinstate Longstanding Endangered Species Act Regulations

On June 22, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a series of proposed rules pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (the Act), seeking to clarify or reverse implementing regulations issued in 2019 during the Trump administration. The agencies jointly proposed two rules—one revising Section 7 regulations, related to interagency consultations, and a second revising Section 4 regulations, related to listing decisions and critical habitat designations. The Fish and Wildlife Service independently proposed a third rule to reinstate the general application of “blanket rule” options for protecting newly listed threatened species pursuant to Section 4(d) of the Act.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes General Eagle Incidental Take Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects

On Friday, September 30, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed revisions to its regulations governing eagle and eagle nest incidental take permits, with the goal of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the permitting process while increasing the conservation benefit for eagles. Notably, FWS proposed a general permit option for qualifying wind-energy generation projects and power line infrastructure, which obviates the need for project sponsors to seek specific permit authorization.


Agencies Rescind Trump-Era Definition of “Habitat” Under Endangered Species Act

On Friday, June 24, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service issued a final rule rescinding the agencies’ regulatory definition of “habitat” previously promulgated by the Trump administration on December 16, 2020, for use in determining a “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act (Act). Under this prior definition, “habitat” included “the abiotic and biotic setting that currently or periodically contains the resources and conditions necessary to support one or more life processes of a species.” (more…)