An Unlikely Climate Hero? Experimental Populations Outside Their Historical Range
Climate change is ravaging the flora and fauna of the United States and contributes to ecosystem damage, including the conversion of Alaskan forests to savannah grasslands, rising sea levels that have destroyed the Key deer’s habitat, and warming regional temperatures that have stifled the growth of crops in the Northeast. What if there were a way for species to thrive away from the sinking coasts and changing landscapes that they have historically inhabited? One possibility is §10(j) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and its associated regulations, which permit the Secretary of the Interior to advance a listed species’ conservation by designating experimental populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), operating under the purview of the Secretary, proposed a rule (the Proposed Rule) on June 7, 2022, to remove any reference to “historical range” from the experimental population regulations, in an attempt to fight climate change that could affect a listed species’ historical range area. This Comment addresses the major legal criticism against the Proposed Rule by arguing that it falls within the ESA’s purpose and within FWS’ authority.