Posts in Conservation.

On December 23, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a notice of availability and request for public comment in the Federal Register with respect to the draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/S) for the City of San Diego Vernal Pool Habitat Conservation Plan (VPHCP).  Comments are due by February 21, 2017.  The species covered by the VPHCP were previously covered by the San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program, but the portion of that Plan providing coverage for vernal pool species was struck down by the United States District Court for the Southern ...

On November 1, 2016 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced its plan to issue what will be only the second programmatic eagle take permit under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) permit program since the program's establishment in 2009.  Programmatic permits may be sought to authorize eagle take that is associated with, but is not the purpose of, an activity if such take is compatible with the preservation of the bald eagle and the golden eagle and if the take is unavoidable even though advanced conservation practices are being implemented.

Alta ...

On October 5, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) listed a beetle species as endangered, a fish species as threatened, and designated critical habitat for the fish species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Service listed the Miami tiger beetle (Cicindelidia floridana), which occurs in Miami-Dade County, Florida, as endangered under the ESA.  According to the Service, the decline in the species is due to the impact of habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, the inadequacy of existing regulatory protections, and the beetle’s relatively ...

In a year that has already seen its fair share of attempts to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA), another proposal has made its way into the House of Representatives.  Representatives Don Young (R-Alaska) and Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 5650) on July 7, 2016.  The bill is based on a plan unveiled by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America's Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources four months ago.

H.R. 5650 would direct approximately $1.3 billion each year from federal energy and mineral development revenues into state-led ...

On June 28, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released draft revisions to their joint Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook (Handbook).  The proposed revisions are intended to address concerns raised by the regulated community regarding the habitat conservation plan (HCP) program implemented under section 10 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

To apply for an incidental take permit under ESA section 10(a)(1)(B), an applicant must develop an HCP.  The Handbook, initially released in 1996 and revised by ...

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After filing an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit less than two weeks prior, on May 10, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) filed an unopposed motion to voluntarily dismiss its appeal of the district court decision that vacated the listing of the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Midland Division, identified a number of errors in the Service’s evaluation of the species under the criteria laid out in the ...

On February 10, 2016, lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans are scheduled to discuss several wildlife laws, including the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).  The Oversight Hearing is entitled The Costly Impacts of Predation and Conflicting Federal Statutes on Native and Endangered Species.  Anticipated topics for discussion include addressing the fact that conflicts between federal statutes often prevent agencies and federal officials from effectively reducing ...

Posted in Conservation

On December 10, 2015, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) voted to advance the tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) as a candidate species for listing under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  The species is now subject to the same legal protections as endangered or threatened species under CESA.

As we previously reported, on June 11, 2015, the Commission voted not to make the tricolored blackbird a candidate for listing under CESA.  The species had been listed on an emergency basis in December 2014 but, as a result of the Commission’s inaction in ...

On November 3, 2015, the President issued a memorandum entitled Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment. In it, he states [t]his memorandum will encourage private investment in restoration and public-private partnerships, and help foster opportunities for businesses or non-profit organizations with relevant expertise to successfully achieve restoration and conservation objectives. The memo includes five sections: policy, definitions, federal principles for mitigation, federal action to strengthen ...

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On the heels of the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) decision not to list the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) under the Endangered Species Act and the concurrent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issuance of Records of Decision on over 98 land use plans focused on sagebrush habitat, the United States Geological Survey (USGS)  and many other agencies announced their issuance of part one of a three-part handbook series focused on sagebrush steppe ecosystems.  Several federal and state entities, including the U.S. Joint Fire Science Program and National ...

Posted in Conservation

On October 16, 2015, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the signing of a conservation agreement intended to provide greater protections and more flexibility in the management of impacts to sensitive species and their habitats.  The conservation agreement, called the Durability Agreement, will allow CDFW to use BLM lands for various conservation actions, and occasionally for project-level mitigation to meet California state standards.  The Durability Agreement, developed during coordination between CDFW ...

On September 22, 2015, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Department of the Interior is calling the greater sage-grouse strategy the largest land conservation effort in U.S. history and a 21st-century approach to conservation.  In reaching its not warranted finding, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) relied upon the collective conservation efforts of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), State ...

On September 15, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published (pdf) its 12-month finding on a petition to list the New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Service determined that listing the species is not warranted.

The New England cottontail is the only rabbit native to New England and the area east of the Hudson River in New York.  It was first identified as a candidate species in 2006, when the Service published a finding that listing the New England cottontail as ...

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On September 2, 2015, the California Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case involving fully protected species that may have important state-wide implications. (Center for Biological Diversity v. Department of Fish and Wildlife (Newhall Land and Farming Company), No. S217763.)  The case involves challenges to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (Department) environmental impact report (EIR) and approval of the Newhall Ranch project in Los Angeles County.  The Supreme Court is reviewing three issues: (1) whether the California Environmental Quality Act ...

On August 25, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule relating to the existing critical habitat for the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus).  The murrelet is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The proposed rule does not purport to change the Service’s previous designation of critical habitat for the murrelet in 1996, as amended in 2011.  61 Fed. Reg. 26,256; 76 Fed. Reg. 61,599.

The Service is reconsidering its prior critical habitat determination pursuant to the U.S. District Court for the District ...

On August 14, 2015, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Department) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking relating to nesting birds and birds of prey.  Specifically, the Department is proposing to adopt regulations implementing the prohibitions found in California Fish and Game Code sections 3503 and 3503.5.  In pertinent part, these sections make it unlawful to take, possess, or needlessly destroy the nest or eggs of any bird (section 3503) or any bird-of-prey (section 3503.5).  In short, the laws prohibit the take of non-endangered or non-threatened nesting birds and ...

On July 24, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a notice seeking authorization from the Office of Management and Budget to evaluate habitat conservation banks established under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) through a survey of bank sponsors and managers.  80 Fed. Reg. 44,147.  The Service and the Department of the Interior’s Office of Policy Analysis state that they are undertaking this effort to identify potential institutional or other impediments to the habitat conservation banking program, and develop possible options for encouraging expanded ...

On July 6, 2015, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) published a Draft Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) Conservation Management Plan (Polar Bear Plan).  The Polar Bear Plan identifies the continuing loss of sea-ice habitat as the single greatest threat to the species’ continued survival, and the global reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) as the most important action to halt and reverse this trend.  The Polar Bear Plan also addresses several high priority actions designed to maintain the polar bear population, including reducing risks from spills, protecting ...

Posted in Conservation

On May 29, 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM),  in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, released Final Environmental Impact Statements for proposed amendments to existing Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for lands in ten western states.  The RMP amendments would establish conservation measures for the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) for approximately 50 million acres of federally-managed lands in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. The proposed RMP amendments are intended to ...

Posted in Conservation

This Friday, May 15th, marks the 10th anniversary of Endangered Species Day. Events are scheduled throughout the country to recognize conservation efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats, which have occurred primarily as a result of the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. For example, zoo staff at the Naples Zoo in Florida will be working to educate guests about the endangered animals living at the zoo, including Malayan tigers, cheetahs, and leopards.

Conservation groups are taking the opportunity to raise funds for endangered species conservation. The ...

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Last week, Washington State Representative Dan Newhouse introduced the Pacific Northwest Gray Wolf Management Act (H.R. 1985), which would remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) within Washington, Oregon, and Utah.  H.R. 1985 is the third bill  introduced in the 114th Congress (2015-2016) proposing to delist the gray wolf within specified states.  H.R. 843 and H.R. 884, introduced in February, would effectively delist gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan and in the Western Great Lakes region and ...

On April 2, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a final rule (pdf) listing the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Service determined that there are several factors affecting the species, but none as severe and immediate to its persistence as the disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS).  The Service found that WNS is the predominant threat to the northern long-eared bat and, in the absence of WNS, the species would not be experiencing the dramatic decline that it has since WNS emerged.

The ...

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On March 27, 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) accepted two petitions asking NMFS to list the Porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act either throughout the entirety of its global range, or as distinct population segments (DPS) occurring in the Northwest Atlantic, the Northeast Atlantic, and the Mediterranean.  (80 Fed. Reg. 16,356 [pdf].)  The petitions, filed separately by Wild Earth Guardians and the Humane Society of the United States, were originally rejected as not warranted by NMFS in July 2010.  Both ...

The Transportation Research Bureau ("TRB"), a division of the National Research Council within the National Academies, has released a report entitled Innovative Airport Responses to Threatened and Endangered Species (pdf).  The report is intended to assist airport sponsors and operators in addressing federally listed species issues on or near their facilities.  The introduction to the report includes the following summary of its contents:

"ACRP Report 122 first introduces relevant regulations and then provides a discussion of potential areas of conflict between ...

On December 3, 2014, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published its proposed rule designating critical habitat for the threatened Arctic Ringed Seal (Phoca hispida hispida).  (79 Fed. Reg. 71,714).  The proposed designation, if finalized, would mark one of the largest critical habitat designations in the Bering, Beaufort, and Chukchi seas, consisting of millions of acres.  The seal, which was designated as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in December 2012, is the smallest of the northern seals with an average lifespan of 15 to 28 years. (77 ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced that it is proposing to list the African lion (Pantera leo leo) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed listing is the result of a 2011 petition to list the species as endangered. In the Service’s 12-month finding on that petition, the Service determined that listing the African lion as threatened throughout its range under the ESA is warranted.

The African lion has a large range and its population has ten strongholds totaling approximately 24,000 lions, which is 70 percent of the current ...

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has published (pdf) a proposed rule to list 21 species as endangered and 2 species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Of the 21 species the Service proposes to list as endangered, twelve are plant species and nine are animal species. The two proposed threatened species are animal species.

All 23 species are found in the U.S. Territory of Guam and the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. According to the proposed rule, the species are experiencing population level impacts as a result of habitat loss and ...

 On Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a final rule (pdf) revising the critical habitat designation for the contiguous United States distinct population segment (DPS) of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) and revising the boundary of the Canada lynx DPS. The revised critical habitat designation consists of approximately 38,954 square miles of critical habitat in five units in Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming.

The Service’s final rule also rescinds the existing State-boundary-based definition of the Canada lynx DPS and ...

Posted in Conservation

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has released its final recovery plan for Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, and Central Valley steelhead.  The website for the recovery plan is here.  Along with the recovery plan, NMFS released a number of supporting documents on the website.  Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead are listed as threatened under the ESA.

At the same time that ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced a proposed policy establishing credits for voluntary prelisting conservation actions for imperiled species. The policy is intended to establish an additional measure for encouraging and awarding voluntary actions to protect species that may be listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The new policy would apply in two possible situations. For non-federal actions that may harm listed species and require a take permit under section 10 of the ESA, the policy would credit actions taken ...

Posted in Conservation

Last week, the bipartisan Western Governors' Association (WGA) adopted a resolution urging the federal government to defer to state conservation efforts and to prioritize funding to avoid new listings under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The resolution (pdf) calls for state conservation plans to "give rise to a regulatory presumption by federal agencies that an ESA listing is not warranted" and purports to provide clear guidance to states regarding minimum requirements for state and multi-state conservation plans. It also notes that states "should be included as ...

Posted in Conservation

As reported by Kristi Pihl of the Tri-City Herald earlier this week, the Columbia-Snake Irrigators Association has requested that the Governors of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho proceed through the "God Squad" process under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) to seek to exempt those who operate on the rivers from having to provide any further mitigation for the local salmon and steelhead populations. 

In the 1979 amendments to the ESA, Congress created the Endangered Species Act Committee (aka, the "God Squad").  The God Squad has the authority to exempt an agency action ...

Posted in Conservation

Last Thursday, several prominent conservation biologists in Australia called on the Australian government to allow certain endangered animals to become extinct in order to focus conservation efforts on reviving more vital species. The biologists argue that current Australian policies, such as mandatory recovery plans for all endangered species, may have consequences if they are not amended to allow for the "ecological triage of less-vital species. David Bowman, a professor at the University of Tasmania, supported the proposal to focus on the most vital species, noting that ...

Posted in Conservation

In an article forthcoming in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Dr. Dennis Murphy and I examine a proposal by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to amend the existing regulations that implement the interagency consultation process set out in Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by codifying their pre-existing practice of using surrogates to express the amount or extent of incidental take of listed species.  We describe the proposed rule, place the use of surrogates for conservation planning in historical context, and ...

Posted in Conservation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has announced the availability of a revised recovery plan for the pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus), a species that is found in the Missouri and Mississippi River basins, has been described as having a "unique dinosaur-like appearance," and has been listed as endangered since 1990.  As summarized by the Service, the revised recovery plan updates the "current understanding of the species life history requirements, identifies probable threats that were not originally recognized, includes revised recovery ...

Posted in Conservation

In an article (pdf) forthcoming in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Dennis Murphy and I explore the potential for adaptive management through structured decision-making to improve efforts to conserve imperiled species.  We note the many impediments to effective management, which include frequent default to best professional judgment.  We then explore the potential for adaptive management to overcome these impediments if it is implemented as a step-wise, structured approach incorporating scientific information into decision-making.  We go on to identify  ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced (pdf) that it will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a proposed application for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP), including a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The application concerns the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicintus), which the Service has proposed to be listed as threatened under the ESA.

A group of stakeholders representing energy, agricultural, and conservation industries and organizations (Stakeholders) submitted the application. If ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is seeking proposals (pdf) from states or territories for federal grants from the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (Fund) for voluntary conservation projects that benefit candidate, proposed, or listed species.

The Fund is authorized under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and provides four different grant programs: 1) Conservation Grants, which help implement conservation projects; 2) Recovery Land Acquisition Grants, which fund the acquisition of habitat in support of approved or draft species ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently released (pdf) its draft economic analysis (DEA) for its proposal to designate critical habitat for the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae), the northern distinct population segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa), and the Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus canorus). The proposed critical habitat designation encompasses approximately 1,831,820 acres of habitat in California.

The purpose of the DEA is to identify and analyze the potential economic impacts associated with the proposed critical ...

 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 ...

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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has begun the process of updating California’s Wildlife Action Plan, a guidance document that sets goals for improving the state’s wildlife resources. CDFW is holding a series of scoping meetings through November 13 of this year at various locations throughout the state.

To be eligible to receive federal funds under the State Wildlife Grants Program, each state must have a State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), and update its SWAP every 10 years. The intent of ...

 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 20, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held (pdf) that appellants’ claims against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an alleged failure to take certain actions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with respect to the straight-horned markhor (Capra falconeri jerdoni) were moot. 

In 1976, the Service classified the markhor as endangered under the ESA. The species’ primary habitat is the Torghar Hills along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In response to the reduction of the markhor population, local tribal leaders formed ...

 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 ...

On May 10th, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that it had approved the Tehachapi Uplands Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan), which will provide protections for 25 species of plants and animals, while permitting limited development and other land use activities on designated areas within Tejon Ranch. Founded in 1843, Tejon Ranch is the largest contiguous expanse of private land in California. 

Many years in the making, the Plan will protect wildlife habitat and enhance species conservation on over 140,000 acres. The Plan provides ...

Posted in Conservation
HCP, Edwards Aquifer, fountain darter, Texas wild rice, salamander

On Tuesday, December 18, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposed upgrading the status of the wood stork (Mycteria americana) from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The proposed change is in response to improvements in the population and habitat of the species based on the best available scientific information.

Dan Ashe, Director for the Service, remarked that the proposed reclassification "demonstrates that the [ESA] works" and that "the species is making real progress toward recovery."  The wood stork was ...

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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