Eighteen AGs Filed Lawsuit Challenging Restrictive ‘Habitat’ Definition Rule, Inappropriate Changes to Critical Habitat Designation Process

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey led a coalition of 18 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit challenging the restrictive regulatory definition of “habitat” finalized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service, as well as USFWS’s final rule that gives developers and extractive industry inappropriate influence over Endangered Species Act critical habitat designation processes. In their complaint, the attorneys general warned that the habitat definition rule “fails to account for species’ need to expand their current ranges or to migrate to currently unoccupied habitat in response to existential threats such as climate change and habitat destruction to ensure species recovery and survival as mandated by the ESA.” The AGs also warned that the designation process rule “biases the statutorily required economic analysis against designating critical habitat,” and gives private parties inappropriate power to unilaterally trigger exclusion analyses and to influence the information used by USFWS in such analyses.

On July 5, 2022, a Northern District of California judge ruled to vacate rollbacks to the Endangered Species Act.