Law & Order


The Interior Department will now allow other federal agencies to approve a commercial development (road, power plant, homes, etc.) on their own authority if it is determined that the project will have no impact on a threatened species.

Under a previous application of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Interior Department required all federal agencies to first consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) if there was the potential to impact a threatened or endangered species. This led to a review process that could last months or years and be contested in court. 

The Interior Department also effectively blocked the ESA from being used as a tool for regulating climate change (e.g. linking reduced habitat to greenhouse gas emissions from a power plant). The Interior Department ruled that the global nature of carbon dioxide emissions is beyond the scope of the ESA. 

Millions of acres of land have been closed under the ESA as a mechanism to protect plants and animals. Nevertheless, there is general consensus in Congress that the ESA needs to be updated so that less money is spent on ESA lawsuits and more is spent on providing quality habitats.

The issue is of consequence to SEMA members that market products for use on off-highway vehicles since public access has been denied to roads and trails in ESA-protected areas.

For additional information, contact Stuart Gosswein at