Service Launches Comprehensive Review of Grizzly Bear ESA Status

On Tuesday, January 14, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a federal register notice that it will be commencing a comprehensive study of the status of the Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis).  This study, called a 5-year status review, could lead to a change in the bear’s status as a protected species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  This 5-year review was spurred by a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, which alleged that the Service failed to complete the required status review on time.  The Service and Center for Biological ...

On January 15, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a lower court decision that upheld the determination of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) denying a petition to delist the Golden-Cheeked Warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia) (Warbler). The Service listed the Warbler as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1990, initially on an emergency basis.

The petition to delist the Warbler was submitted to the Service in 2015 by a group of petitioners that included the General Land Office of the State of Texas. The petition ...

On January 6, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register announcing the agency’s finding that the Kanab ambersnail (Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis) is no longer warranted for listing as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed rule states that the Kanab ambersnail does not represent a valid taxonomic entity, and therefore does not meet the definition of “species” under the ESA. The ESA defines “species” as including ''any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct ...

Will Long-Awaited Changes to NEPA Materially Alter Federal Environmental Reviews?

On January 10, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) proposed amendments to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing regulations.  The Proposed Rule would represent the first significant overhaul of CEQ’s NEPA regulations in more than 40 years.

The changes in the Proposed Rule are substantial and numerous. 

While the stated purpose of the changes is to facilitate more effective and timely environmental review of federal agency actions, the practical impact of the proposed changes is far from clear.  Below, we focus on some of the more significant ...

Today, the Trump Administration announced its long-awaited release of updates to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementation regulations (Regulations).  On June 20, 2018, the administration published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) and sought public comment on how the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) could ensure more effective, timely, and efficient NEPA process.  During the 60-day comment period on the ANPR, more than 12,500 comments were received.

The administration has indicated the proposed Regulations will be posted to the Federal ...

The U.S. District Court for the District of Montana has approved a partial settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) requiring that the Service complete and post a status review of the lower-48 grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) populations no later than March 31, 2021.  Earlier this year, CBD filed a lawsuit challenging the Service’s alleged failure to update a 1993 federal recovery plan for the species.  The partial settlement disposes of CBD’s first claim for relief, which alleged that the Service had ...

Today, the U.S. Senate confirmed Aurelia Skipwith as the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) by a vote of 52-39.  Ms. Skipwith’s confirmation fell mostly along party lines, with three Democratic Senators joining Republicans in approving the nomination.  With Ms. Skipwith’s confirmation, the USFWS will have its first Director of the USFWS since the beginning of the Trump Administration.

Prior to her confirmation, Ms. Skipwith served as the Interior Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. She is a co-founder and former general ...

Posted in Litigation
California Announces Lawsuit over Federal Government's Biological Opinions for Central Valley Project and State Water Project 

On November 21, 2019, the California Secretary for Natural Resources announced California’s decision to sue the federal government over its biological opinions for continuing operations of the California State Water Project (SWP) and federal Central Valley Project (CVP). 

The Projects provide water to over 20 million of Californians and support the businesses and farms across the state.  In his announcement, the Secretary notes that “Difficult trade-offs have to be made unless we can find creative solutions that balance all water needs.  And even then, sometimes tough ...

Posted in Listing

On November 1, 2019, Chad Ponce of Jacksonville, Florida pleaded guilty to killing a smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), an endangered species protected under the federal  Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Florida Endangered and Threatened Species Act . Sawfishes are a family of rays characterized by a long, narrow, flattened rostrum, or nose extension, lined with sharp teeth, arranged in a way that resembles a saw. Sawfish use that rostrum to sense and attack prey; without it, they can’t survive. They are among the largest fish, with some species reaching lengths of up to 17-18 ...

This CLE is For the Birds!

Please join Brooke Wahlberg and Steve Quarles as they co-chair CLE International’s 3rd Annual MBTA & BGEPA Conference, happening on December 9-10, 2019, in Denver, CO. 

Named as both an “Energy & Environmental Trailblazer” by the National Law Journal, and a “Legend of Environmental Law” by the D.C. Bar Association, Steve is a veteran attorney who focuses his practice on addressing issues concerning federal wildlife laws (Endangered Species Act (ESA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA)), federal lands and resources ...

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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