(UnitedVoice.com) – In December 2020, President Donald Trump’s administration finalized a rule that strictly defined what officials can call a “habitat” to designate critical land. It defined a habitat as a place that “currently or periodically contains the resources and conditions” needed to support life processes. It was the first time the government defined the word under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to enforce the law.
When President Joe Biden took office, he made it clear the environment was one of his top priorities. In 2022, his administration reversed his predecessor’s rule by issuing a new regulation. The Senate has now voted to repeal it.
Under Biden, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service rescinded Trump’s “Regulations for Listing Endangered and Threatened Species and Designating Critical Habitat” rule. The administration determined the rule was “unclear and confusing” and wasn’t consistent with the conservation purposes of the Endangered Species Act.
Experts claimed the Trump rule severely limited the land the government could designate as critical habitat for restoration purposes or to address climate change.
Lawmakers Push Back
On May 11, the Senate voted to repeal Biden’s rule change. Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) sponsored the resolution to restore former President Trump’s one-sentence definition of “habitat.” The Republican senator argued the rule unfairly targeted landowners in her state. She called the 51-49 vote a “big win” for her constituents.
The Senate delivered a big win for WY landowners by passing my Congressional Review Act to undo an overreaching @POTUS rule that redefines critical habitat within the Endangered Species Act.
Radical environmental activists should not be able to unfairly target WY landowners.
— Senator Cynthia Lummis (@SenLummis) May 11, 2023
The Washington Examiner reported Lummis said the restoration of Trump’s rule would ensure that “habitat designations are based on science, not on politics.” She explained that “two-thirds of all endangered species” are on private property, making landowners critical partners in helping endangered species recover.
Democrat Votes Against Biden
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) was among the 51 lawmakers who voted to restore the Trump-era definition. While Democrats have control of the Senate, it’s very closely divided. At the time of the vote, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was at home recovering from shingles. That meant the president couldn’t afford to lose any support. Manchin’s vote with Republicans and Feinstein’s absence led to the repeal vote.
Manchin is a staunch opponent of the Biden Administration’s environmental policies. In fact, the day before the “habitat” vote, the EPA announced new regulations targeting power plant emissions, and the Democratic senator released a scathing rebuke of the administration. He vowed to oppose every single EPA nominee. He accused the president of pushing a “radical climate agenda” and said he was “hellbent” on trying to regulate the fossil fuel plants “out of existence.”
The proposal to restore the Trump rule is now headed to the House.
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