The election of Donald Trump as President, together with Republican majorities in the House and Senate, is likely to lead to important policy changes across a range of issues. While administration of the Endangered Species Act and other federal wildlife laws has not been high profile during the election season, it is an issue area in which we are likely to see big changes. The five key issues are as follows:
Department heads. There will be a clean slate of Department heads, including new Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior. Rumored candidates for Commerce include Chris Christie, Dan DiMicco, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, and Wilbur Ross. Rumored candidates for Interior include Rob Bishop, Jan Brewer, Mike Crapo, Dennis Daugaard, Mary Fallin, Robert Grady, Harold Hamm, Forrest Lucas, Cynthia Lummis, Susana Martinez, Matt Mead, Butch Otter, Sarah Palin, Dan Sullivan, and Don Young.
Other political appointments. There will also be wholesale turnover in the political ranks below Secretary. This will lag to some extent as appointments are made at the Deputy and Assistant Secretary levels, followed by staff to those folks.
Federal Courts. With a Republican majority in the Senate, President-elect Trump will likely move promptly to nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court. He will also be in a position to try to move along appointments to the lower courts more quickly than President Obama could during his second term.
Rulemaking. President-elect Trump will likely try to walk back agency wildlife regulations, especially those viewed by the energy industry as impeding progress on infrastructure such as oil pipelines and drilling. It is unclear whether this will include undoing revisions made to the regulations that govern designation of critical habitat and issuance of incidental take statements, which were promulgated in the past 18 months. President-elect Trump will likely get significant support from the Republican-held Congress for regulatory changes. We anticipate there will be calls for him to streamline the regulatory processes with respect to migratory birds and bald and golden eagles, among other environmental regulations.
Federal-state relations. In some respects, the Obama Administration has striven to work with states to avoid listings or list species as threatened and concurrently promulgate 4(d) rules to allow a degree of flexibility. On the other hand, the Administration has been at loggerheads with states, for example, with respect to wolf management. We expect the Trump Administration will attempt to foster better federal-state relations, particularly in the West, with respect to wildlife issues.