On May 31, 2017, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued (pdf) proposed revised guidance for the development of recovery plans as required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The proposal is aimed at prioritizing limited agency resources to advance the recovery of threatened and endangered species.  According to NMFS, this prioritization would be accomplished by focusing on the immediacy of the species’ overall extinction risk, extent of information regarding major threats, and certainty that management or protective actions could be implemented successfully.

The proposal revises the Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities and Recovery Plans contained in the 1990 Listing and Recovery Priority Guidelines. NMFS finalized this original guidance on June 15, 1990.

NMFS proposes to revise Part B of the Guidance, “Recovery Plan and Implementation Priorities,” to increase the number of species priority numbers to 24 (currently there are only 12) by redefining the “magnitude of threat” and “recovery potential” criteria. The “magnitude of threat” criteria would be changed to a demographic risk rank based on the species listing status (threatened or endangered) and species’ condition for productivity, spatial distribution, diversity, abundance, or trends.  This proposed change is aimed at providing greater emphasis on the species’ risk and more detail on the factors in assessing the risk rank.

NMFS proposes to redefine a species’ recovery potential by splitting the criterion into three components: (1) extent of knowledge of major threats to the species and the species’ response to those threats: (2) whether the United States has jurisdiction to act; and (3) certainty that actions will be effective. Each of these components would have a “high” or “low to moderate” category.  This change is designed to improve the guidelines by including the United States’ ability to influence recovery actions and providing greater detail in the definition of recovery potential.

Finally, NMFS proposes to add two new recovery task priority numbers. Task Number 4 is defined as actions not linked to downlisting and/or delisting criteria and not needed for ESA recovery, but needed to facilitate post-delisting monitoring. Task Number 0 is defined as actions that are not needed for ESA recovery, but that would advance broader goals beyond delisting.

The comment period on the proposed revisions is open through June 30, 2017.