In 2018, the Trump Administration is expected to publish proposed amendments to regulations administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The Executive Branch’s Fall 2017 Regulatory Plan previews possible changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The statutes and their regulations bestow protections on threatened and endangered species and certain migratory birds. Such protections often include prohibitions on or modifications to development projects that might harm one or more listed species.
On the topic of possible deregulatory actions under the ESA, the Fall 2017 Regulatory Plan states that FWS and NMFS will publish rule revisions that will be aimed at improving “how the ESA is administered and [reducing] unneeded burdens.” The agencies will also look for “opportunities to create efficiencies and streamline the consultation process and the listing and delisting process.” Similarly, the Regulatory Plan states that FWS will aim to become “more efficient and timely” in administering the MBTA. To that effect, FWS will consider making regulatory changes to the MBTA rules that will “reduce the burden on industry.” FWS is also contemplating other regulatory changes that will “allow applicants to proceed more quickly through the bald and golden eagle permit process.”
Although little detail has emerged about the potential rule revisions, the forthcoming proposals likely will reflect the Trump Administration’s “fundamental shift” towards regulatory policy, as reflected in the Regulatory Plan. The Administration states that executive actions should be informed by the idea that “excessive and unnecessary federal regulations limit . . . innovation and entrepreneurship,” and that limited government intervention is preferable. Furthermore, the 2018 regulatory agenda set forth in the plan is intended to “send a clear message that the public can invest and plan for the future without the looming threat of burdensome and unnecessary new regulations.” Considering these policy statements, it seems likely that the amendments to the wildlife rules will be a boon for industry and development.