The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Proposed Rule:
Revision of the Regulations for Prohibitions to
Threatened Wildlife and Plants

October 2018

Project Summary

In this proposed rule the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seeks comment on changes to the way the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is implemented. Rather than continuing to extend the same protections to threatened and endangered species alike, the rule change would require the FWS to determine whether species-specific protections are warranted for threatened species. This rule change would likely have significant impacts both on species and on landowners, states, tribes, and private groups involved in conservation efforts.

In this comment, the authors evaluate the likely outcomes of this proposed rule change by drawing on previous research on the conservation of endangered species. The authors begin by discussing the evolution of federal protections for endangered and threatened species over time and review key problems with the current approach to conserving species. They draw extensively on their own research on cooperative conservation and the importance of incentives in achieving successful conservation outcomes.

Based on this research, the authors conclude that restoring a two-tiered approach would increase incentives for cooperative conservation efforts and lead to better conservation outcomes, but only if implemented correctly. The authors also discuss the possible challenges that a two-tiered approach may create and highlight possible policy changes that could be made to overcome those challenges, including increasing the involvement of state and local conservation actors.

Project Authors

Megan E. Hansen

Camille Harmer

CGO Graduate Research Fellow