Endangered species protections may become stronger in 2023

Feb 10, 2023

The U.S. Department of Interior announced Wednesday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed revisions to the voluntary conservation programs outlined in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If implemented, the revisions would make it cheaper and easier for applicants to obtain incidental take permits and enhancement of survival permits, both of which aim to protect imperiled species from private development and conserve the habitats they depend on.

This announcement comes as the ESA turns 50 years old in 2023. According to a press release from the Interior Department, we can expect the USFWS to celebrate the importance of the ESA throughout the year by continuing to bolster its provisions.

Incidental take permits are used when a non-federal landowner believes their activities may require taking endangered or threatened animal species. The application, with its accompanying habitat conservation plan, ensures that the effects of such actions are adequately minimized or mitigated. Enhancement of survival permits create more of a partnership between the applicant and the USFWS, where landowners enter voluntary conservation plans to benefit species, and in return, are not subject to additional restrictions as a result of their conservation actions—known as assurances. There are two similar programs under these permits, but the proposal seeks to combine them into one to simplify the process in hopes of obtaining more applicants.

House Republicans have expressed concern over a different ESA regulation that comes from a 2015 court decision requiring the U.S. Forest Service to consult with the USFWS on forest management plans when they encounter new information about threats to a protected species. 130 projects in the West have reportedly been delayed as a result of the ruling, and the Forest Service has generally supported its revision. Others, including the Center for Biological Diversity, believe there are alternative ways to address the issue.

Big Oil profits unlikely to stick around

Fossil fuel companies reported $200 billion in profits in 2022. Though companies are planning on keeping their momentum through 2023, an economy reliant on fossil fuels is not as stable as it once was. In the 1980s, the oil-reliant energy industry commanded 28 percent of the stock market, plummeting to only 2 percent in 2020. Big Oil’s profits are unlikely to remain at 2022 levels as renewables become cheaper and car manufacturers seek to electrify, and they know it—companies are beginning to reverse their limited climate commitments in order to offset prospective profit loss, including BP, who recently changed its emission pledge from a 35-40 percent reduction to only 20-30 percent.

Quick hits

Breakdown of big oil’s $200 billion profits

USA Today | The Guardian

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Quote of the day

”A collaborative approach to the biodiversity and extinction crises will advance the goals of the President’s America the Beautiful initiative and set us on a course for continued recovery and resilience.”

—Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, U.S. Department of Interior

Picture this

Clouds pass over distant mountains in the Mojave Desert


The @BLMNational Rainbow Mountain Wilderness in Nevada emerges from the valley floor, standing guard over the Mojave Desert below. Its sheer, towering red and white cliffs provide a unique and beautiful backdrop for hiking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing and camping.

(featured image: Bald Eagles on the National Elk Refuge with Sheep Mountain, USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Flickr)