Dear Mmes. Fahey and Somma: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Gas Association, American Road & Transportation Builders Association, Associated General Contractors of America, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, National Association of Manufacturers, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and the Public Lands Council (“the Associations”) appreciate the opportunity to comment on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s and National Marine Fisheries Service’s (collectively the “Services”) proposed rule, “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Regulations for Listing Endangered and Threatened Species and Designated Critical Habitat.” The proposed rule would rescind the currently effective rule titled “Regulations for Listing Endangered and Threatened Species and Designating Critical Habitat,” which defined the term “habitat” for the purposes of making “critical habitat” designations found at 50 C.F.R. § 424.02.
The Associations support the Endangered Species Act’s (“Act”) goal of protecting species threatened with extinction and the habitat those species depend on. Determining what areas are “habitat” and “critical habitat” for listed species is instrumental to that goal. Defining “habitat” serves the critical objective of ensuring regulatory certainty and consistent application of the Act. The United States is embarking on a much-lauded bipartisan effort to repair, rebuild, and improve our infrastructure. The resources of the Services and the whole of the Federal government will be called upon to efficiently carry out their obligations with regard to project approval and permitting. It is therefore unwise to revoke the current definition. For the reasons described in more detail below, the Associations urge the Services to withdraw the proposal.