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Crapo, Risch Seek to Overturn Biden Rule on Endangered Species Act

Washington, D.C.---U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Mike (both R-Idaho) today voted to restore the 2020 definition of “habitat” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which provided needed clarity and transparency to landowners and businesses in Idaho and throughout the west.

The Biden administration reversed of the 2020 definition of “habitat” in June 2022.  Senators Crapo, Risch, Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming) and 15 of their colleagues introduced a resolution to block the Biden administration’s effort.  The senators’ resolution passed today.

“Providing an exact definition for ‘habitat’ is necessary for transparency and clarity as stakeholders make decisions regarding wildlife and proper management practices,” said Crapo.  “The Biden Administration’s rollback of the definition of ‘habitat’ is unnecessary and only adds confusion when dealing with important wildlife issues.”

“The Biden administration is mandating a return to excessive critical habitat designations that will hurt Idaho’s farmers, ranchers, and businesses,” said Risch.  “We should restore the prior definition of habitat, which ensured proper species protections without undue burden on land owners and users.”

In December 2020, citing  Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. FWS  , the Trump administration finalized a rule that defined the term “habitat” as “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.”

On June 24, 2022, the Biden administration finalized a rule that rescinded the 2020 rule, eliminating the habitat distinction, leaving regulated parties in the dark and undermining the ESA’s purpose of protecting endangered or threatened species.

The Endangered Species Act directs the Secretary of Interior through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or the Secretary of Commerce through the National Marine Fisheries Services to designate critical habitat for listed species.

A critical habitat designation has major impacts on landowners, as it reduces the value of any private property within a designation because prospective landowners recognize the burdens that accompany a designation.  It also greatly impacts any land with a federal nexus through permits or funding, as a critical habitat triggers significant scrutiny, resulting in burdensome limitations on land use and costly mitigation requirements.  The definition of “habitat” helped to reduce the burden to landowners and reduce unintended consequences by ensuring critical habitat definitions were not taking place in areas actually unsuitable to the species aimed at protection.