NRECA on Monday applauded action by the departments of Interior and Commerce to update certain protection and permitting practices under the Endangered Species Act, culminating years of advocacy work on priorities identified by member cooperatives.

“Today’s announcement is an important step toward modernizing endangered species protection,” NRECA CEO Jim Matheson said. “These improvements will ensure that limited agency and co-op resources are focused on better species conservation by allowing protections to be tailored to the needs of each species.

“Co-ops remain committed to protecting the nation’s natural resources, while providing responsible, reliable, and affordable power to America’s rural communities.”

The rulemaking package will distinguish how species are regulated, clarify criteria used to designate critical habitat and make agency consultations more efficient, Matheson said.

Louis Finkel, NRECA’s senior vice president of government relations, and Janelle Lemen, regulatory issues director, were among the invited stakeholders as Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed the final ESA rules Monday at Interior headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal: recovery of our rarest species,” said Bernhardt. “An effectively administered act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within DOI and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service now will follow the ESA’s updated sections that, according to the agencies, include the following key components:

  • Retains that listing or delisting of a threatened or endangered species will be based “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial information.”
  • Clarifies that standards for delisting and reclassifying a species must consider the same five statutory factors that resulted in the initial listing of that species.
  • Removes the requirement to give equal protections to threatened and endangered species.
  • Identifies a “non-exhaustive list of circumstances” where critical habitat may not be designated.
  • Raises the standard for designating critical habitat to prevent regulating areas devoid of the threatened or endangered species.
  • Clarifies and streamlines the interagency consultation process.

NRECA will analyze the final rulemaking once it is published in the Federal Register in the coming weeks. The rules will take effect 30 days after publication.

Read More About Electric Co-ops and the Endangered Species Act:

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