On June 27, 2024, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a final rule listing the Suwannee alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelids suwanniensis) as a threatened species with a 4(d) rule under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Suwannee alligator snapping turtle is a large, freshwater turtle species occurring in the Suwannee River basin in Florida and Georgia. The species’ listing follows a 2012 petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity to list 53 amphibians and reptiles, including the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii), which, due ...

California’s “Room to Roam Act:” Factoring Wildlife Connectivity Into Land Use Planning

Recently, the California Assembly passed Assembly Bill 1889, the “Room to Roam Act.” If enacted without changes, the Room to Roam Act would amend Section 65302 of the Government Code to add certain “fish, wildlife, and habitat connectivity” considerations to the provisions governing general plans for land use in Californian cities and counties.

The bill’s passage in the Assembly is a significant development in efforts to reform California’s land use and wildlife conservation policies, as the bill would require local land use decisions to factor in wildlife movement ...

Dunes Sagebrush Lizard Earns Spot on Endangered Species List

On May 20, 2024, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a final rule listing the dunes sagebrush lizard (Scleroperus arenicolus) (DSL) as endangered (Final Rule) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In the Final Rule, the Service identifies habitat loss and fragmentation of dunelands associated with oil and natural gas production and frac sand mining as the primary threat to the species, with climate change causing additional impacts.

The Service received more than 18,000 comments on its proposed rule to list the DSL, with many urging the Service not to list the ...

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Vineyard Wind Approvals in Two Separate Appeals

On April 24 and 25, 2024, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit unanimously upheld two federal district court decisions rejecting challenges to the federal approvals for the Vineyard Wind offshore wind farm in the cases of Nantucket Residents Against Turbines v. U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (ACK RATs),[1] No. 23-1501, and Melone v. Coit et al., No. 23-1736. Each of the cases challenged different aspects of the federal government’s approvals for Vineyard Wind, but both argued that the project would harm the endangered North Atlantic right whale ...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Make Final Listing Decision for Texas Mussel Species

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Center for Biological Diversity entered into a settlement agreement wherein the Service agreed to submit to the Federal Register final listing decisions on the following six mussel species no later than May 23, 2024:

  • Texas fatmucket (Lampsilis bracteate);
  • Guadalupe fatmucket (Lampsilis bergmanni);
  • Texas fawnsfoot (Truncilla macrodon);
  • Texas pimpleback (Cyclonaias (= Quadrula) petrina);
  • Guadalupe orb (Cyclonaias necki); and
  • False spike (Fusconaia (= Quincuncina) mitchelli).

As Nossaman previously reported, on ...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Updates Permitting Regulations

Tomorrow, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will publish its final rule updating regulations implementing section 10 of the Endangered Species Act (Section 10), which addresses the agency’s issuance of incidental take permits and enhancement of survival permits under Section 10. The final rule will take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. In the preamble to the final rule, the Service indicates that applications for permits under Section 10 that have been processed and published in the Federal Register for publication prior to the effective ...

Services Finalize Endangered Species Act Regulatory Revisions

On March 27, 2024, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (collectively, the Services) made available pre-publication versions of the agencies’ long-awaited updates to regulations implementing sections 4 and 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Services have finalized joint rules addressing interagency consultation requirements under ESA section 7 and the procedures for listing, reclassifying, delisting, and designating critical habitat for species under ESA section 4; and USFWS has finalized its reinstatement of ...

Advocacy Groups File Endangered Species Act Suit Against Virginia Offshore Wind Project

On March 18, three advocacy organizations and their members filed a lawsuit challenging an offshore wind project against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The lawsuit alleges that the Biological Opinion (BiOp) issued by NMFS for Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because it fails to adequately analyze the project's impacts on the endangered North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). … 

New Jersey Federal Court Dismisses Challenge to Incidental Take Authorizations for Offshore Wind Projects

On February 29, 2024, the federal District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed a challenge to eleven incidental take authorizations (ITAs) issued for offshore wind projects off the coasts of New York and New Jersey in the case of Save Long Beach Island v. United States Department of Commerce. The challenged ITAs had been issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in 2022 and 2023 pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), 16 U.S.C. § 1361 et seq. The Plaintiffs also challenged five pending applications for ITAs that had not yet been issued at the time they ...

On February 28, 2024, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) denial of a petition filed by the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (Cattle Growers) urging the Service to remove the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) (flycatcher) from the list of endangered species (Petition). The Cattle Growers had argued that the Service’s denial of the Petition, and specifically the agency’s finding that the flycatcher is a valid subspecies of the unlisted willow flycatcher, violated the ...

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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