Habitat protections are the latest programs rescued from Trump-era rollbacks by the administration of President Biden.
Habitat protection and industrial development are two forces constantly at odds with one another. But while industrial development can always be taken in a direction that doesn’t harm more of the environment, habitat often cannot be recovered once it’s destroyed. Under President Trump, environmental protection laws were weakened seriously by two last-minute executive orders.
One of them allowed the government to ignore or deny habitat protections for vulnerable species in areas where “greater benefits” might come from development. The order did not specify what benefits or to whom the “greater benefits” would apply, making it a wide-open loophole for any jurisdiction to destroy unproductive habitat in favor of any business or industry which might generate tax revenue.
The other changed the definition of “habitat” in such a restrictive way that it would exclude almost anything.
Opponents to the Trump rollbacks accused them of favoring industry and profits over environmental concerns.
In President Biden’s first days in office, he set into motion a thorough review of all of President Trump’s policies, orders, and changes. These two were targeted by that review for the way they tied the government’s hands with regards to protecting vulnerable lands.
According to Shannon Estenoz, the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, the removal of the rollbacks will bring the habitat and endangered species law back “into alignment with its original intent and purpose – protecting and recovering America’s biological heritage for future generations.”
Republican opponents called the move “tone deaf,” asserting that environmental protections make it punitively difficult to run a business. Several prominent Republicans have discussed introducing legislation to make the Trump rules permanent, but the idea stands little chance of passing in the currently Democrat-led House and Senate.
Environmentalists lauded the decision, and Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity best says why: “You really can’t save endangered species without protecting the places they live.”