Assessment of Service’s Move to Rescind Definition of Habitat

This week, I published a post on the Center for California Water Resources Policy and Management’s DeltaCurrents blog discussing the Biden administration’s proposal to rescind the definition of habitat.  The definition was promulgated by the Trump administration in response to the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 in Weyerhauser Co. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a case involving a challenge to the rule designating critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog in the American southeast. … 

Threatened Listing and 4(d) Rule for Texas Plant Species

On November 10, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a proposed rule to list the bracted twistflower (Streptanthus bracteatus), a plant species found only in Texas, as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The USFWS is proposing to list the bracted twistflower with a species-specific rule under section 4(d) of the ESA (4(d) rule), as well as to designate approximately 1,607 acres in central Texas as critical habitat for the species.

The bracted twistflower is a flowering annual plant and a member of the mustard family that can grow over ...

Service Revises Critical Habitat Designation for Northern Spotted Owl

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a final rule revising the critical habitat designation for the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The final rule rescinds a previous rule issued by the Trump Administration on January 15, 2021, which was set to take effect this coming December, and would have excluded approximately 3.4 million acres from the species’ critical habitat designation.  Instead, the Service’s new final rule excludes from the designation only 204,294 acres located across multiple ...

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Conservation Group Sues USFWS over Protections for Two California Fish Species

Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleging that the agency violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it failed to timely determine whether the Santa Ana speckled dace (hinichthys osculus ssp.) and the Long Valley speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus ssp.) warrant listing as endangered or threatened species. 

The Santa Ana speckled dace is a tiny fish endemic to southern California river systems, largely restricted to headwater ...

Service Proposes Critical Habitat Designation for Coastal DPS of Pacific Marten

On October 25, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the coastal distinct population segment (DPS) of Pacific marten (Martes caurina), also known as coastal marten, under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).  In the proposed rule, the Service identifies a total of approximately 1,413,305 acres of land in northwestern California and southwestern Oregon to designate as critical habitat for the coastal marten. 

Listed as a threatened species in October 2020, the coastal marten is a medium-sized carnivore in the ...

bog buck moth
Gerald J. Lenhard, Louisiana State University, Bugwood.org

On October 14, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a proposed rule to list the bog buck moth (Hemileuca maia menyanthevora) (= H.iroquois) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Federal Register notice also states that the Service will make a final determination on the proposed listing within one year, and that it is seeking comments on the proposed designation.

The bog buck moth occurs in groundwater-fed wetlands in Oswego County, New York, and Ontario, Canada, with large amounts of bog buckbean (a plant that is a key food source, or “host plant” for bog buck moth larvae, much as milkweed is a host plant for monarch butterfly larvae). …

Service Finds Humpback Chub Swimming In The Right Direction

On October 18, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a final rule reclassifying the humpback chub (Gila cypha), a fish endemic to portions of the Colorado River basin, from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Service attributed the chub’s status upgrade largely in part to modifications in how reservoir managers are operating their facilities, and the management of nonnative predators.

The chub was first listed as an endangered species in 1967 under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, a predecessor to the ESA.  In 1974, the ...

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 ...

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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