Dear Ms. Fahey: 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 (the “Service”) proposed rule, “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Regulations for Designating Critical Habitat.”¹ The proposed rule would rescind the currently effective rule by the same name, which amended the Service’s regulations to better implement section 4(b)(2) of the Endangered Species Act. More specifically, the rule that the Service now proposes to rescind clarified, “based on agency experience, how the Service considers impacts caused by critical habitat designations and conducts [its] discretionary exclusion analysis.”²
The Associations support the Endangered Species Act’s (“Act”) goal of protecting species threatened with extinction and the habitat those species depend on. Evaluating which areas should be excluded from critical habitat designations because the harms of designation outweigh the benefits plays an important role in ensuring the Act’s goals are met without unduly burdening the economy and other important government objectives. The current rule provides regulatory certainty and presents clear, enforceable guideposts for agency staff performing these evaluations. The United States is embarking on a much-lauded bipartisan effort to repair, rebuild, and improve our infrastructure. The resources of the Service 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 this definition. For the reasons described in more detail below, the Associations urge the Services to withdraw the proposal.