• Posts by David J. Miller
    Partner

    David Miller assists clients on a variety of complex land use and environment related matters, including matters dealing with the National Environmental Policy Act, Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, and the ...

 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced (pdf) the completion of its status review (pdf) of Coleman’s coralroot (Hexalectris colemanii), a species of orchid found in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. The Service determined that listing the orchid as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is not warranted at this time.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned the Service to protect Coleman’s coralroot under the ESA in September 2010. Originally thought to be part of the Chisos coralroot, the ...

On Thursday, December 12, 2013, the House Natural Resources Committee (Committee) will hold a full committee oversight hearing (pdf) titled ESA Decisions by Closed-Door Settlement: Short-Changing Science, Transparency, Private Property, and State & Local Economies. This hearing is part of a series of hearings announced by the Committee to review the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and conduct an assessment of the law’s strengths and weaknesses.

As we previously reported, in 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) developed a six-year work plan that would allow it to ...

 The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today issued (pdf) a draft Oregon Greater Sage-Grouse Land Use Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement (LUP Amendment/EIS) for the Oregon Sub-Region.  Once finalized, the LUP Amendment/EIS will cover over 10 million acres of sage-grouse habitat in the species’ Oregon range.

The draft LUP Amendment/EIS is one of fifteen separate planning efforts being undertaken as part of the National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy.  As we previously reported, BLM has already issued the draft LUP Amendment/EIS for the Nevada and Northeast ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced (pdf) the reopening of the public comment periods for its January 11, 2013 proposed rules to list the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate approximately 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for the species in Colorado and Utah. The Service also announced that it was rescheduling two public information sessions and public hearings for the proposed rules, as well as adding a third public informational session and public hearing. These ...

On November 1, 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as lead agency, and the U.S. Forest Service (Service), as cooperating agency, issued the Nevada and Northeast California Greater Sage-Grouse Draft Land Use Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  The EIS evaluates six alternatives for land use plan management amendments (LUPA) focusing on conservation measures covering approximately 17.7 million acres of land administered by BLM and the Service in Nevada and northeast California spanning 16 Nevada counties, four California counties, and one ...

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published (pdf) its final determination that the ashy storm-petrel (Oceanodroma homochroa) does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) at this time. The Service’s announcement constitutes its 12-month finding on a petition to list the species filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (Center).

The ashy storm-petrel is a small seabird that ranges from the California-Oregon border to Islas San Benitos, Mexico. The Service determined that climate change, invasive species, human activities, military ...

 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently listed (pdf) the Jemez Mountains salamander (Piethodon neomexicanus) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service also recently published (pdf) a final rule listing the Texas golden gladecress (Leavenworthia texana) as endangered and the Neches River rose-mallow (Hibiscus dasycalyx) as threatened under the ESA.

The Jemez Mountains salamander is found only in the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico, in Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, and Sandoval Counties. The salamander is generally found around the rim of ...

On August 22, 2013, U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo) and the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Doc Hastings (R-Wash), announced that the Congressional Endangered Species Act (ESA) Working Group will be holding field hearings in Casper, Wyoming and Billings, Montana to find ways to improve the ESA for both species and people. The hearings, entitled State and Local Efforts to Protect Species, Jobs, Property and Multiple Use Amidst a New War on the West, will focus on efforts to preserve wildlife while maintaining jobs in agriculture, energy, and ...

On August 19, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced (pdf) its decision to list the Austin blind salamander (Eurycea waterlooensis) as endangered and the Jollyville Plateau salamander (Eurycea tonkawae) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). While the Service’s proposed listing of the two species designated both as endangered, the Service’s final rule (pdf) lists the Jollyville Plateau salamander as threatened based on new information received since publication of the listing proposal.

In conjunction with listing the two species ...

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently issued a proposed rule (pdf) designating critical habitat for the Northwest Atlantic Ocean loggerhead sea turtle Distinct Population Segment (DPS) (Caretta caretta) within the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The 36 marine areas proposed for designation as critical habitat contain one or a combination of nearshore reproductive habitat, winter habitat, breeding areas, and migratory corridors.

The loggerhead sea turtle was listed worldwide as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on July 28 ...

 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently published a proposed rule (pdf) to list the Kentucky glade cress (Leavenworthia exigua var. laciniata) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service also proposed (pdf) designating critical habitat for the species.

The Service previously identified the Kentucky glade cress as a candidate species on November 9, 2009. However, it was designated as a Listing Priority Number (LPN) 3. LPNs are assigned based on the immediacy of the threat to the species, as well as taxonomic status. As an LPN 3, Kentucky glade ...

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee is holding a full committee oversight hearing on species conservation efforts undertaken at on-the-ground-levels in an effort to compare those efforts with the effectiveness of Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuits. The hearing, entitled Defining Species Conservation Success: Tribal, State and Local Stewardship vs. Federal Courtroom Battles and Sue-and-Settle Practices, is the first in a series of hearings planned by the House to review the effectiveness of conservation efforts under the ESA.

Natural Resources Committee ...

House Republicans recently announced the creation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Working Group, which will be led by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Western Caucus Co-Chair Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).  The ESA Working Group will include a total of 13 republican members from a broad geographic range.  It will examine the ESA from many angles through a series of events, forums, and hearings that will invite discussion and input on ways in which the ESA is working well, and where it can be updated or improved to increase its effectiveness for both people ...

In Klamath Siskyou Wildlands Center v. MacWhorter, 1:12-cv-1900 (pdf), the United States District Court for the District of Oregon granted a motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ suit alleging that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by allowing suction dredge placer mining in the Rogue River-Siskyou National Forest without consulting with federal wildlife agencies about potential effects on coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and coho salmon critical habitat.  In dismissing the case, the court held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction ...

On March 13, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) extended (pdf) the public comment period for two proposed rules relating to the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus).  As we previously reported, the Service published a proposed rule to list the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in January.  In conjunction with that proposed rule, the Service also proposed to designate approximately 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for the species in Colorado and Utah.  The 60-day public comment period for these two proposed rules was ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently proposed (pdf) to remove the island night lizard (Xantusia riversiana) from its current listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The proposed removal is based on successful recovery efforts led by the U.S. Navy and National Park Service, which have resulted in the achievement of nearly all of the objectives established in the recovery plan for the species.

Island night lizards are found only on the Channel Islands - San Clemente Island, San Nicolas Island, and Santa Barbara Island - off the ...

On January 11, 2013, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule (pdf) to list the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  As we previously reported, the sage-grouse had been on the candidate species list since January of 2000, but the Service was not authorized to prepare a proposed rule to list the species or designate critical habitat until 2011, when additional resources became available.

The Gunnison sage-grouse is the smaller cousin of the greater sage-grouse.  The species ...

On December 4, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho denied a request to amend its previous order reversing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (Service) 2009 Final Rule listing the slickspot peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Plaintiffs sought to reverse the court's August 2012 decision (pdf) to vacate the Service's determination in order to allow the listing to remain in place pending additional review.

The ESA defines "threatened" as "likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced  (pdf) that it finalized its designation of critical habitat for the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) in the Pacific Northwest.  The final rule designated 9.29 million acres of federal land and 291,750 acres of state land as critical habitat for the species.  The final rule reduced the amount of habitat by approximately 4.3 million acres from a February 2012 proposal.  The Service asserts that this designation comported with a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department of the Interior to give ...

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) recently completed its initial evaluation (pdf) of a petition to list the gray wolf (Canis lupus) under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  The Center for Biological Diversity, Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center, and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (collectively, Petitioners) submitted a petition for the listing to DFG on March 5, 2012.  DFG recommended the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) accept the petition for further consideration, finding that there is ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced a proposal to protect 40 different species native to Hawaii under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Federal Register notice of the announcement can be found here (pdf).  The proposal encompasses 37 plant species, including herbs, shrubs, trees, and ferns, and three species of tree snails.  The species are native to the Hawaiian Islands of Moloka'i, Lana'i, Kaho'olawe, and Maui.  They are found in 11 different ecosystem types.

The Service's announcement also included critical habitat designation for 39 of the ...

On June 4, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a 90-day finding (pdf) that substantial scientific or commercial information indicates that delisting the Inyo California towhee (Pipilo crissalis eremophilus) and reclassifying from endangered to threatened the arroyo toad (Anaxyrus californicus), Indian Knob mountainbalm (Eriodictyon altissimum), Lane Mountain milk-vetch (Astragalus jagerianus), Modoc sucker (Catostomus microps), and Santa Cruz cypress (Cupressus abramsiana) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) may be warranted.  The Service will now conduct status reviews for these six species which result in a 12-month finding for each species determining whether the action is, in fact, warranted.

The Pacific Legal Foundation petitioned the Service requesting these actions on December 19, 2011.  The Foundation's petition was based on information contained in the most recent 5-year reviews for these six species, which were completed in 2008 and 2009.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced (pdf) its decision that the Sonoran Desert Area population of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Service's conclusion is the result of a revised 12-month finding on a petition to list the population as threatened or endangered under the ESA.  The Service concluded that the Sonoran Desert Area population of bald eagle does not qualify as a distinct population segment (DPS), and that listing the population is not warranted at this time.

The Service originally found that the Sonoran Desert Area population of bald eagles was not a listable entity under the ESA on February 25, 2010.  The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society challenged that decision in October 2010.  On November 30, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona ordered the Service to draft a new 12-month finding.

A judge in the District of Washington D.C. recently denied a request by the Humane Society of the United States to halt the killing of sea lions that prey on endangered spring run salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River.  On March 15, 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reauthorized the removal of California sea lions that congregate at the Bonneville dam and feed on the listed species as they pass the dam.  NMFS's authorization would have allowed the removal of up to 92 sea lions annually through 2016.  The Humane Society challenged NMFS's decision, claiming that NMFS ...

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The United States District Court for the District of North Dakota issued a decision (pdf) granting the dismissal of criminal charges under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) based upon a finding that the MBTA was not intended to criminalize incidental "take" of migratory birds by lawful commercial activities.  The United States had charged seven oil and gas companies operating in North Dakota's Williston Basin (Defendants) with violating the MBTA by "taking" migratory birds after they were found dead in or near the companies' oil reserve pits.

The Government's case against each defendant was similar.  Defendants operated oil reserve pits on their respective sites.  Under North Dakota law, a "reserve pit" is "an excavated area used to contain drill cuttings accumulated during oil and gas drilling operations and mud-laden oil and gas drilling fluids used to confine oil, gas, or water to its native strata during the drilling of an oil and gas well."  North Dakota state sets forth requirements for operation and remediation of reserve pits.  Notably, state law did not require the fencing, screening, or netting of a reserve pit unless the pit was not reclaimed in excess of 90 days after the company's completion of operations.  On separate occasions, agents for the Government observed and collected dead birds at or near Defendants' reserve pits.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently reopened  the public comment period for its proposal to designate additional critical habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi).  As we previously reported, on June 2, 2011, NMFS proposed revising the critical habitat for the Hawaiian monk seal pursuant to section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by extending the current designation in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands out to the 500-meter depth contour, including Sand Island at Midway Islands; and by designating six new areas in ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced (PDF) the availability of the 2011 Revised Recovery Plan for the Mojave Population of the Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) (PDF).  The Plan calls for an adaptive management approach, something the Service says is necessary to "accommodate changing management needs" of the species.  In contrast, an earlier earlier recovery plan, finalized in 1994, focused on traditional mitigation measures to achieve recovery of the threatened desert tortoise.

Key elements of the 2011 Recovery Plan include developing ...

On July 27, 2011, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings announced that the Committee will "move forward" in the fall to examine the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in an effort to reauthorize the law.  Chairman Hastings issued his statement shortly after the House passed an amendment offered by Rep. Norm Dicks to the FY 2012 Interior Appropriations Bill that restored funding to the ESA's listing program.  The original spending bill would have eliminated funding for the processing of petitions, preparation of 12-month findings, and issuance of final rules ...

Posted in Listing, Litigation

On July 12, 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that is strengthening a work plan to address a backlog in making listing determinations regarding numerous candidate species.  The work plan is part of a settlement agreement (Agreement) with WildEarth Guardians (WildEarth) and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the two plaintiff groups that most frequently file suit on endangered species issues.  The Agreement builds on a multi-year work plan that the Service had previously filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in May.

The Service ...

On June 16, 2011, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a draft of its scientific integrity policy (pdf).  The policy comes in response to President Obama’s March 9, 2009 memorandum directing the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to consult with relevant executive departments and agencies to recommend a plan to achieve the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch’s involvement with scientific and technological processes.  Director of OSTP John Holdren issued further guidance on scientific integrity in a ...

On May 17, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia stayed its approval of a proposed settlement agreement (Agreement) aimed at expediting findings related to petitions to list 251 species. The Center for Biological Diversity (Center) opposed approval of the Agreement after being left out of the negotiation process.

As we previously reported, plaintiff WildEarth Guardians (Guardians) entered into the Agreement with the Secretary of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), under which the Service agreed to a six-year work plan to address ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that it has developed a six-year work plan that would allow the Service to systematically review and address the needs of more than 250 species currently listed as candidate species for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The work plan is part of a settlement agreement (PDF) between the Service and WildEarth Guardians (WildEarth) that will be filed in a consolidated case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

While the Candidate List was envisioned as an administrative tool that would identify species for which the Service would shortly make listing decisions, the dramatic increase of listing petitions and lawsuits has led to a backlog of species on the list. The Service has received petitions to list more than 1,230 species in the last four years – nearly as many petitions as the amount of species listed under the ESA in the previous 30 years. The work plan provides a schedule for making listing determinations for current candidates species, and it includes some species that have been petitioned for protection under the ESA.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced that it was opening a 30-day public comment period on updated information for the draft revised recovery plan for the threatened northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina). This announcement follows the completion of a new computerized modeling tool developed for assessing spotted owl habitat quality and population dynamics. It also predicts the effectiveness of different conservation measures.

The new modeling tool synthesizes more than 20 years of demographic data regarding the spotted owl ...

On March 13, 2011, it was reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is authorized to prepare a new proposed rule and proposed critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus). This news follows a September 27, 2010 decision (PDF) by the Service that, although the Gunnison sage-grouse warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), protection would be delayed while the Service addressed the needs of other high priority species.

The Gunnison sage-grouse is a small ground bird with speckled plumage and an ornate mating ritual ...

Posted in Delisting

On March 2, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) completed its formal review of the status of the eastern cougar (Felis concolor couguar) and concluded that the subspecies is extinct.  The existence of the subspecies, listed since 1973, has long been questioned.  Dr. Mark McCollough, the Service's lead scientist for subspecies, noted that the eastern cougar has likely been extinct since the 1930s.  Though sightings had been reported, the Service believes they are not of the eastern cougar.  Rather, the Service believes that the sightings were actually of South ...

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Tags: Delisting
Posted in Listing

The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced  (pdf) a proposed rule to reclassify the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). After completing a 12-month status review, the Service found that threats still affect the wood bison, with the largest threat being the loss of habitat caused by agricultural development, the presence of diseased wood bison and cattle herds on habitat that could be restored with disease-free herds, and the commercial production of plains bison in historical wood bison ...

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Posted in Listing

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced that it will conduct in-depth status reviews for six California species currently listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service published (PDF) a 90-day finding in the Federal Register on January 19, 2011, concluding that a petition filed by Pacific Legal Foundation presented substantial scientific information indicating that delisting or reclassifying the species was warranted.

Pacific Legal Foundation petitioned the Service to delist the Eureka Valley evening ...

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Posted in Listing

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has denied protection for spotted seal populations in Alaskan waters.   NMFS did, however, formalize protection for smaller populations of spotted seals in Liaodong Bay, China and Peter the Great Bay, Russia.  This region is home to a population of approximately 3,300 seals.

Spotted seals primarily inhabit waters of the north Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas.  During their breeding season, they are often spotted in the outer areas of ice flows, where they use the edge of the sea ice away from predators as safe habitat breeding in ...

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Tags: Listing
Posted in Listing

On October 1, 2010, the California Fish and Game Commission declared the mountain yellow-legged frog a candidate species (PDF) as defined by section 2068 of the Fish and Game Code.  The Commission accepted the petition to list the mountain yellow-legged frog as endangered at its September 15, 2010 meeting.  The Center for Biological Diversity previously submitted (PDF) a petition to the Commission to list the mountain yellow-legged frog as endangered on January 27, 2010.  The Commission transmitted the petition to the California Department of Fish and Game for review.

The ...

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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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