The Department of Interior formally published a proposed rule for reforms to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the Aug. 15 Federal Register. The proposed rule notes that there have been "no comprehensive revisions to the implementing section 7 regulations since 1986. (Section 7 deals with the requirement that all federal agencies consult with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on impacts to species before any federal action.)
The new rule seeks to streamline the consultation process by allowing "a variety of documents prepared for other purposes to suffice for initiating consultation." It would also amend the definition of "cumulative effects" in ESA to distinguish it from the stricter language of the National Environmental Policy Act. Under the proposal, the Administration would drop "future federal activities" from consideration of the cumulative effect analysis. Future activities would be considered as they occur rather than as a forecast.
The 30-page proposed rule includes a number of other significant reforms to technical language of ESA. It also includes a 30-day, rapid-fire public comment period. Comments can be submitted online at www.regulations.gov.