Chicago – Attorney General Kwame Raoul, as part of a coalition of 15 attorneys general, today filed a comment letter supporting the Biden administration’s proposed rules that would strengthen the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). In the letter, Raoul and the coalition also urge that the unlawful amendments adopted by the Trump administration should be fully rescinded.
The ESA is intended to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction. The federal government’s current rules dramatically weakened protections and reduced federal ESA enforcement and consultation, putting these endangered and threatened species at risk of extinction and risking damage to their habitats. Over 30 species listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA reside in Illinois.
“The ESA protects over a thousand threatened or endangered species. I urge the federal government to rescind the unlawful amendments and strengthen protections to ensure these species and their environments are not at risk,” Raoul said. “I will continue to fight for federal attempts to strengthen environmental protections.”
In 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NFMS) finalized three rules that dramatically altered longstanding ESA regulations governing protections for newly listed threatened species. Changes were made to the processes for listing and delisting species as endangered or threatened and for designating critical habitat, and the requirements for evaluating and mitigating the effects of proposed federal agency actions on listed species and critical habitat.
Following the changes, Raoul and a coalition of 17 other attorneys general challenged these three rules in court as unlawful under the ESA. At the request of FWS and NFMS, the court remanded these three rules for reconsideration without vacating or ruling on the merits of the challenged rules. In other words, courts have yet to rule on whether the 2019 rules are unlawful, as the coalition of state attorneys general has argued.
The new proposed rules would largely rescind the earlier rollback that reduced protections for newly listed threatened species and for species listings and critical habitat designations. It would, however, leave intact most of the unlawful regulatory requirements concerning when federal agencies must consult with the FWS and NFMS on endangered or threatened species. Raoul and the attorneys general argue in their letter that these requirements should be removed.
Joining Raoul in filing letter are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.