At its February 2018 meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission (“Commission”) received the one-year status review report on a petition to list tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) as a threatened or endangered species from the Department of Fish and Wildlife (“Department”). In the status report the Department recommends listing the species as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. Because the species is so widely distributed and abundant, listing could have major impacts on building, farming, and public infrastructure activities and projects across California.
Petitioners for the listing claim that “[t]ricolored blackbird populations are declining at an alarming rate,” and that “efforts to reduce and reverse population decline are critically needed.” But the species is widely distributed, occurring in at least 37 counties in California, as well as in Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. And, while estimates of the size of the population are subject to multiple sources of uncertainty described in the body of the status report, appendix 2 to that report, and the peer reviews, those estimates indicate the overall population has been relatively stable in surveys conducted over the past five decades. Further, the most recent statewide survey effort – conducted in 2017 – estimated an increase in the population from 145,000 in 2014 to 177,000 in 2017. Peer reviews of the listing petitions submitted to the Commission along with the status review report diverged on whether listing is warranted.
Under section 2075 of the California Fish and Game Code, the Commission is required to schedule the petition for final consideration at its next meeting, which is in April. At the hearing on the petition the Commission is obliged to accept written materials and oral testimony from interested parties. Once the Commission closes the hearing, it must find either that the petitioned action is warranted or not warranted.