The Biden administration proposed bringing back rules to protect imperiled plants and animals as officials moved to reverse changes under former President Donald Trump that weakened the Endangered Species Act. The proposals include the restoration of the so-called blanket 4(d) rule, which extends the same protections given to endangered species to those listed as threatened, which is “essential to ensuring that these species are protected before it’s too late,” said McCrystie Adams, vice president for conservation law at Defenders of Wildlife.

The blanket protections regulation was dropped in 2019 as part of a suite of changes to the application of the species law that were encouraged by industry, even as extinctions accelerate globally due to habitat loss and other pressures. Officials also would no longer consider economic impacts when deciding if animals and plants need protection. And the rules make it easier to designate areas as critical for a species’ survival, even if it is no longer found in those locations.

That could help with the recovery of imperiled fish and freshwater mussels in the Southeast, where the aquatic animals, in many cases, are absent from portions of their historical range, said Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director Gary Frazer. Frazer said the proposal would restore “baseline” protections so species don’t get pushed further toward extinction.