2 Trump-Era Rules Brought On By a Frog and Limiting Habitat Protections to Be Dropped

President Joe Biden's administration said on Tuesday that it will cancel two environmental rules brought on by former President Donald Trump, inspired by a frog and its "critical habitat," the Associated Press reported.

In 2018, the dusky gopher frog was brought to the attention of the Supreme Court when a timber company sued after their land was designated as "critical," therefore unable to use it as needed, in case the frogs returned in the future. The court redefined what a "critical habitat" is and if that would limit the land from being used for economic purposes.

The Biden administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service are striving to protect designated lands from oil drilling, mining and other development by undoing rules that aid industry instead of the environment.

Shannon Estenoz, assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, said Tuesday's proposal would bring the law "back into alignment with its original intent and purpose—protecting and recovering America's biological heritage for future generations."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Gopher Frog
President Joe Biden’s administration announced Tuesday that it will cancel two environmental laws brought on by former President Donald Trump, inspired by a frog and its “critical habitat.” Above, a gopher frog at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans on September 27, 2011. Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

The rule changes under Trump were finalized during his last weeks in office, meaning they've had little time to make a significant impact.

One allows the government to deny habitat protections for endangered animals and plants in areas that could see greater economic benefits from development. Democratic lawmakers and wildlife advocates complained that would open lands to more drilling and other activities.

The other rule provided a definition of "habitat" that critics charged would exclude locations species might need to use in the future as climate change upends ecosystems.

Trump officials described the changes as giving more deference to local governments when they want to build things like schools and hospitals.

But the rules allowed potential exemptions from habitat protections for a much broader array of developments, including at the request of private companies that lease federal lands or have permits to use them. Government-issued leases and permits can allow energy development, grazing, recreation, logging and other commercial uses of public lands.

Animals potentially affected by the changes include the struggling lesser prairie chicken, a grasslands bird found in five states in the south-central U.S., and the rare dunes sagebrush lizard that lives among the oil fields of western Texas and eastern New Mexico, wildlife advocates said.