Biden Administration Turns Its Focus on Birds

In the last few weeks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has published several major regulatory actions affecting federal avian protections.  The Service has repealed a Trump-era rule that excluded incidental take from liability under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), issued guidance for enforcement of the MBTA against incidental take, and invited comment on a potential MBTA permitting program.  Separately, the Service has invited comment on ways to improve its existing permitting program for the incidental take of eagles (Eagle Permit Program). 

On October 4 ...

One Step Back for NEPA Regulations

On October 7, 2021, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) will publish the first of two proposed rulemakings to revise National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations that had previously been updated in 2020 under the Trump Administration. As stated by CEQ in the proposal, the agency intends to “generally restore” NEPA regulations that were in place prior to the 2020 updates.

In this first phase of NEPA regulatory revisions, CEQ addresses the agency’s definition of “purpose and need,” the definition of “effects” of the action, and agency procedures for ...

Service Proposes Delisting 23 Species Due to Extinction and One Spider Due to Taxonomic Revision

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published two proposed rules to delist a total of 24 species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  First, the Service published a proposed rule delist 23 species as a result of the species’ extinction.  The 23 now-extinct species include thirteen species of birds, eight freshwater mussels, one Texas fish, and one Hawaiian plant.  The Federal Register notice indicates that, based on the best available scientific and commercial data, these species are no longer extant, and therefore no longer meet the definitions of ...

USFWS Issues 12-month Findings on Chipmunk, Moss, Butterflies, and Springsnails

This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued three separate notices in the Federal Register concerning the agency’s 12-month findings on a number of petitions to list various wildlife and plants under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

First, the USFWS announced a positive 12-month finding on a petition to list the Peñasco least chipmunk (Neotamias minimus atristriatus), a small mammal from New Mexico.  The USFWS proposes to list the Peñasco least chipmunk as an endangered species under the ESA and to designate approximately 6,574 acres of land as critical ...

USFWS Ordered to Take Another Look at Joshua Tree

On September 20, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California set aside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) negative 12-month finding (Finding) on a petition by WildEarth Guardians (Guardians) to list the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The petition had alleged that the Joshua tree is threatened by the effects of climate change and its associated effects, including drought and increasing wildfires. On September 14, 2016, the Service issued a positive finding on Guardians’ petition ...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Consider Re-Listing Gray Wolf Populations Under ESA

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced its 90-day findings on petitions to list two proposed distinct population segments (DPS) of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA): a Northern Rocky Mountains DPS and a Western United States DPS. The Service determined that listing may be warranted, and announced its intention to initiate a status review for these populations of the species.

In 1978, except for the Minnesota population, the gray wolf was listed as an endangered species throughout the ...

USFWS Lists Alabama Crayfish Species as Endangered, Designates 78 Miles of River as Critical Habitat

On September 8, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("USFWS") published a final rule in the Federal Register listing the slenderclaw crayfish as endangered under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") and identifying approximately 78 miles of river in DeKalb and Marshall Counties, Alabama as critical habitat for the species.

The slenderclaw crayfish is a small freshwater crustacean that is endemic to streams on Sand Mountain within the Tennessee River Basin in Alabama. Most of the slenderclaw crayfish’s natural habitat was flooded when the Tennessee River was dammed in 1939 to ...

WOTUS No More: EPA and Corps Revert to Pre-2015 Framework

On September 3, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced the agencies will abandon the definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS) set forth in the April 21, 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) and will instead rely on the pre-2015 regulatory framework. The agencies’ announcement comes on the heels of a decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona vacating the NWPR. …

Service Lists Franklin’s Bumble Bee as Endangered Species

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently listed the Franklin’s bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.  Historical records indicate that the species is endemic to southwest Oregon and northern California.  The last known record of the species dates back to 2006.  The Service’s decision is the culmination of a listing process that began 11 years ago with the submission of a petition to list by the Xerces Society in 2010.

In its press release announcing the decision, the Service both noted that Franklin’s bumble bee has the smallest known ...

On August 18, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) published in the Federal Register a final rule designating more than 1,315 acres across 14 units as critical habitat (“Final Rule”) for two neotenic salamander species known only from Williamson and Bell Counties, Texas: the Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia) and Salado salamander (Eurycea chisholmensis).  The species are “neotenic” because they do not transform into a terrestrial form and instead spend their entire life cycle in water.  The Final Rule was published in accordance with a ...

Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.

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