The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) have reopened the public comment period on a joint proposal to simplify the process of identifying habitat essential to the survival and recovery of species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The joint proposal would amend the ESA’s implementing regulations to require release of preliminary estimates of the economic impacts of any proposal to specify particular habitat areas at the same time as the habitat proposals themselves are released for public review and comment. Completion of the draft economic analyses at the time of proposal would allow the agencies to refine habitat proposals earlier in the process, and provide the public with additional information to help them understand and comment on those proposals.
This joint proposal is part of a broader effort by the agencies to engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. The Fish and Wildlife Service has initiated a review of its implementation of the ESA designed to identify ways to eliminate unnecessary procedural requirements, improve the clarity and consistency of regulations; engage the states, tribes, conservation organizations, and private landowners as more effective conservation partners; encourage greater creativity in the implementation of the ESA; and reduce the frequency and intensity of conflicts as much as possible.
The proposed rule is also consistent with Executive Order 13563, which requires federal agencies to examine existing regulations and identify changes that will achieve objectives in a more efficient and effective manner.