The Biden Administration has completed the process to cancel a regulation that limited the federal government’s ability to protect critical habitat for threatened and endangered species. The previous rule limited protection to areas that could currently support the species and excluded areas that could potentially support the species. The new rule clarifies the need to consider areas altered by climate change as new critical habitat.
1. Agencies Affected
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service are the lead agencies for implementing the Endangered Species Act and the process for designating critical habitat.
- However, all federal agencies have a role in managing and protecting threatened and endangered species and the habitat needed for recovery of those species.
- Under the new rule, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service can consider areas where a threatened and endangered species currently exists as well as areas currently unoccupied by the species but important for its recovery and future existence, including areas altered by climate change.
2. Implications for the Military
- Military services are required under the Sikes Act to have an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan to address the conservation needs of an installation. The plan includes management practices to support recovery of threatened and endangered species for both habitat that is currently occupied and potential habitat.
- By continuing to address threatened and endangered species in this manner, military installations can meet the requirement of the new rule.
- All Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans must be reviewed and approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the appropriate state fish and game agency before implementation.
- Once approved, a plan that adequately addresses threatened and endangered species can provide sufficient protection for species recovery without the need for critical habitat designation.
3. Tools for Addressing Species Protection
- The Department of Defense recently released a revised edition of Conserving Biodiversity on Military Lands: A Guide for Natural Resource Managers. As in previous editions in 1996 and 2008, the latest version provides extensive guidance for integrating natural resource conservation with the military mission.
- By doing so, the military ensures that both national defense and natural resource conservation can coexist in the same geographic area.
- The book emphasizes the importance of partnerships for success. The book does not establish any new regulatory requirements. It has been used as a university textbook.
- The new version is available online at Conserving Biodiversity on Military Lands Home – DENIX (osd.mil).
4. Bottom Line
- Scout’s team of biologists and environmental planners are available to assist with implementation of the new rule.
- We have extensive experience developing NEPA documents that address all environmental planning needs, including threatened and endangered species management and recovery.
- If you have any questions or need any support, contact us at email@example.com.