Seventeen AGs Filed Comments Opposing Inappropriate and Unlawful Changes to Endangered Species Act Critical Habitat Designation Process

October 08, 2020

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey led a coalition of 17 attorneys general in submitting comments in opposition to a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would skew the process for designating critical habitat for protection under the Endangered Species Act in favor of development and extractive industry interests. In their comments, the attorneys general noted that the proposal would inappropriately “impose a new mandatory obligation” on the Service to undertake an analysis of the benefits of excluding an area from a critical habitat designation whenever a proponent of exclusion — such as a developer or a mining or logging company — provides “credible information” in support of their position. This change conflicts with the plain text of the Endangered Species Act and with extensive case law, which make clear that exclusion analyses may be conducted at the Service’s discretion. The proposal would also require the Service to defer to information provided by private interests when conducting exclusion analyses — including, in some cases, biological information that is squarely within the Service’s expertise. The attorneys general emphasized that this conflicts with the Service’s “fundamental obligation under basic principles of administrative law to exercise its own independent judgment based on the law and the record before it.”

Document Type:
  • Comment Letters
  • Press Releases/Statements
States:
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
Agencies:
  • Department of the Interior
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Issues:
  • Endangered Species Act
  • Wildlife
Action Type:
Rulemaking