Endangered Species Act Faces New Threat That Puts Declining Birds at Greater Risk

Media Contact: Jordan Rutter, Director of Public Relations, 202-888-7472 | jerutter@abcbirds.org | @JERutter
Expert Contact: Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy, 202-888-7490 | sholmer@abcbirds.org

The Northern Spotted Owl is one of many species that has benefitted from a strong Endangered Species Act. New ESA rules will substantially weaken protections for wildlife. Photo by Mike Parr

(Washington, D.C., December 17, 2020) The Administration today released a final rule that allows for extensive exemptions of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that will substantially weaken protections for wildlife. This rule is likely to be especially detrimental to species that depend on federal lands, such as the Northern Spotted Owl, Marbled Murrelet, and Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

“Even in its final days, the Administration continues its war on birds,” says Mike Parr, President of American Bird Conservancy (ABC). “Needless to say, we will fight back on their behalf.”

“This new critical habitat rule is yet another hurdle in the race to prevent birds from going extinct,” says Steve Holmer, ABC's Vice President of Policy. “Species in trouble, such as the Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet, need additional habitat provided through old-growth restoration under the Northwest Forest Plan. Instead, this rule puts them both at greater risk of further habitat loss.”

ABC has endorsed a comment letter by the environmental law organization Earthjustice that includes the following:

“We strongly oppose the proposed regulation, which would create unnecessary and illegal obstacles to achieving the ESA's goal to conserve ‘the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend.' … the proposal would unlawfully prevent [the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] from exercising statutorily conferred discretion to make decisions whether to designate ‘particular area[s] as critical habitat' on a case-by-case basis.The proposed regulation would impermissibly grant economic considerations outsized weight in decisions about habitat that should prioritize species' recovery needs and be driven by the best available science. Moreover, it would make it easier to strip protection from essential habitat located on federal lands, where designation confers the greatest conservation benefits.”


American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).