The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) announced changes to rules implementing parts of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on Aug. 12. This is a positive step that will increase transparency and effectiveness of the ESA and reduce overly-burdensome regulations faced by aggregates producers. NSSGA supports these efforts to cut ineffective red tape and allow aggregates producers to focus on suppling critical construction materials to infrastructure projects instead of spending years tied up in permitting that does not advance critical conservation efforts.
FWS incorporated several of NSSGA’s recommended commonsense improvements from comments that NSSGA made in 2018 in the final rules, including:
- Clarifying numerous definition changes
- Using economic studies in rulemaking
- Following the same criteria when listing and de-listing species
- Unoccupied areas may be considered critical habitat only in rare circumstances
- Allow for expedited consultation for projects with minimal impact
- Other programmatic changes to streamline the consultation process
“Our members care deeply about the environment and set up habitats and other enhancements on their sites to benefit local species. However, the ESA permitting process has hampered many aggregates operations, which has in turn impacted the ability of producers to provide materials needed for vital infrastructure projects. These changes will streamline permitting while still protecting endangered species as Congress intended,” noted Emily Coyner, NSSGA senior director of environmental policy.
These rules go into effect 30 days from their publication in Federal Register, though this is the prepublication rule and not currently published in the Register.