On January 31, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced plans to amend up to 182 Endangered Species Act (ESA) recovery plans, which potentially cover over 305 animal and plant species, over the next year. These amendments will revise each recovery plan to include “quantitative recovery criteria” as part of the Department of the Interior’s Agency Priority Performance Goals. USFWS kicked off this 12-month push by releasing a notice of availability of 26 draft recovery plan amendments, covering 42 species found in eight states (AZ, CA, CO, HI, NM, TX, UT, and WA).
ESA recovery plans are intended to provide a roadmap for listed species’ recovery and to supply guidance to USFWS—as well as states, conservation partners, and affected landowners and industries—on how to minimize threats to the species and move towards recovery. The addition of “quantitative criteria for what constitutes a recovered species” is intended to give USFWS “objective, measurable guidelines” to help determine when a listed species has recovered such that it can be downlisted or delisted altogether.
In its notice of availability, USFWS requests comments on its first tranche of ESA recovery plan amendments by April 1, 2019. A dozen animal species and 30 plant species are covered by those recovery plans, including two Hawaiian seabirds, six Texas karst invertebrates, a Washington pygmy rabbit, and a number of cacti. The USFWS notice of availability requests comments on these draft recovery plan amendments from local, state, tribal, and federal agencies, as well as nongovernmental organizations and the public.