Posts in Endangered Species Act.
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 ...

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 ...

USFWS Issues 12-month Findings on Chipmunk, Moss, Butterflies, and Springsnails

This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued three separate notices in the Federal Register concerning the agency’s 12-month findings on a number of petitions to list various wildlife and plants under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

First, the USFWS announced a positive 12-month finding on a petition to list the Peñasco least chipmunk (Neotamias minimus atristriatus), a small mammal from New Mexico.  The USFWS proposes to list the Peñasco least chipmunk as an endangered species under the ESA and to designate approximately 6,574 acres of land as critical ...

USFWS Ordered to Take Another Look at Joshua Tree

On September 20, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California set aside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) negative 12-month finding (Finding) on a petition by WildEarth Guardians (Guardians) to list the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The petition had alleged that the Joshua tree is threatened by the effects of climate change and its associated effects, including drought and increasing wildfires. On September 14, 2016, the Service issued a positive finding on Guardians’ petition ...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Consider Re-Listing Gray Wolf Populations Under ESA

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced its 90-day findings on petitions to list two proposed distinct population segments (DPS) of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA): a Northern Rocky Mountains DPS and a Western United States DPS. The Service determined that listing may be warranted, and announced its intention to initiate a status review for these populations of the species.

In 1978, except for the Minnesota population, the gray wolf was listed as an endangered species throughout the ...

USFWS Lists Alabama Crayfish Species as Endangered, Designates 78 Miles of River as Critical Habitat

On September 8, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("USFWS") published a final rule in the Federal Register listing the slenderclaw crayfish as endangered under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") and identifying approximately 78 miles of river in DeKalb and Marshall Counties, Alabama as critical habitat for the species.

The slenderclaw crayfish is a small freshwater crustacean that is endemic to streams on Sand Mountain within the Tennessee River Basin in Alabama. Most of the slenderclaw crayfish’s natural habitat was flooded when the Tennessee River was dammed in 1939 to ...

WOTUS No More: EPA and Corps Revert to Pre-2015 Framework

On September 3, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced the agencies will abandon the definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS) set forth in the April 21, 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) and will instead rely on the pre-2015 regulatory framework. The agencies’ announcement comes on the heels of a decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona vacating the NWPR. …

Service Lists Franklin’s Bumble Bee as Endangered Species

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently listed the Franklin’s bumble bee as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.  Historical records indicate that the species is endemic to southwest Oregon and northern California.  The last known record of the species dates back to 2006.  The Service’s decision is the culmination of a listing process that began 11 years ago with the submission of a petition to list by the Xerces Society in 2010.

In its press release announcing the decision, the Service both noted that Franklin’s bumble bee has the smallest known ...

On August 18, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) published in the Federal Register a final rule designating more than 1,315 acres across 14 units as critical habitat (“Final Rule”) for two neotenic salamander species known only from Williamson and Bell Counties, Texas: the Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia) and Salado salamander (Eurycea chisholmensis).  The species are “neotenic” because they do not transform into a terrestrial form and instead spend their entire life cycle in water.  The Final Rule was published in accordance with a ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Shows Its Texas Mussel

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) published in the Federal Register a proposal to list six Central Texas mussel species under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), to issue an ESA section 4(d) rule for one of the species, and to designate critical habitat (“Proposed Rule”).  Specifically, the Service has proposed to list the Guadalupe fatmucket (Lampsilis bergmanni), Texas fatmucket (Lampsilis bracteata), Guadalupe orb (Cyclonaias necki), Texas pimpleback (Cyclonaias (=Quadrula) petrina), and false spike (Fusconaia (=Quincuncina) mitchelli) as endangered ... 

FWS Delists Cumberland Sandwort Under the ESA

On Monday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a final rule delisting the now-recovered Cumberland sandwort (Arenaria cumberlandensis) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Originally listed as endangered in 1988, the Cumberland sandwort is a perennial plant species occurring in cave-like “rockhouses” or bluff sites throughout northern Tennessee and southern Kentucky.  In 1996, the FWS released a recovery plan for the species.  By December of 2013, the FWS recommended downlisting the Cumberland sandwort to threatened status, and in April of 2020, the ...

Ninth Circuit Tosses NWP 12 Appeal

On August 11, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted partial vacatur of an appeal brought by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) challenging a district court decision to vacate and enjoin use of the 2017 version of nationwide permit 12 (NWP 12).

The underlying lawsuit was brought by Northern Plains Resource Council against the Corps over the Corps’ authorization of impacts to waters of the United States under NWP 12 in connection with the Keystone XL pipeline. In April 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana vacated NWP 12 throughout the ...

Last Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) finalized the removal of the now-recovered Trifolium stoloniferum (running buffalo clover) from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).  Running buffalo clover is a perennial species with small white flowers and leaves divided into three leaflets.  The plant produces creeping stems that “run” along the surface of the ground to re-root and form new clusters of clover.

The USFWS initially listed the running buffalo clover as an endangered ...

FWS to Assess Revisions to Mount Graham Red Squirrel’s Critical Habitat Designation

This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a 12-month finding on a petition to revise the critical habitat designation for the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Mount Graham red squirrel is a subspecies of red squirrel occurring only in certain high-elevation areas of the Coronado National Forest in Arizona. 

In December of 2017, a group of eNGOs including the Center for Biological Diversity submitted a petition to FWS, requesting that the agency expand the subspecies’ ...

Service to Further Evaluate Listing of Wolf and Mussel, But Not Delisting of Warbler

Earlier this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a Federal Register notice addressing 90-day findings for three separate species.  With the notice, two species moved one step closer to being listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

In July of 2020, the Service received a petition to list the Alexander Archipelago wolf (Canis lupus ligoni) as an endangered or threatened species.  The wolf’s current range includes Alaska and Canada.  The Service concluded in the 90-day finding that listing may be warranted due to potential threats associated ...

On July 13, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the pearl darter (Percina aurora) under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Listed as a threatened species under the ESA in September 2017, the pearl darter is a small, snub-nosed fish whose historical range includes Mississippi and Louisiana.  The proposed critical habitat designation for the pearl darter includes a total of approximately 517 river miles along the Pascagoula River and Pearl River basins, which run across multiple counties in ...

On July 7, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register announcing the agency’s finding that the razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus) no longer warrants listing as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). As such, FWS has proposed to downlist the species to threatened status.

The razorback sucker is a freshwater fish measuring up to 3 feet long that gets its name from the bony ridge behind its head. The species is commonly found throughout the reservoirs, floodplains, and backwaters of the Colorado ...

An Overview of the Listing Process Under the California Endangered Species Act

In an article published this week in California Fish and Wildlife, co-authors Stephanie Clark, Ashley Remillard and I provide an overview of the process of determining whether to list species as threatened or endangered, and thereby protect them, under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). Listing is the gateway to protection under CESA. The process is analogous to listing under the federal Endangered Species Act in certain respects but it also differs in a number of respects, perhaps the most important being that the decision whether to list a species is made by the Fish and ...

Congress Urges Action on Monarch

On June 29, 2021, fourteen members of Congress delivered a letter to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to use its authority to list the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on an emergency basis under section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The letter, which garnered only Democratic support, notes that the population of western monarchs has sunk to under 2,000 individuals and states that immediate action is necessary to prevent extinction of the species.

Section 4 of the ESA authorizes the Service to immediately place a ...

ABA Publishes Third Edition of Endangered Species Act Treatise

The American Bar Association has published a newly revised edition of its tome Endangered Species Act: Law, Policy, and Perspective.  Editors Don Baur and Jake Li pulled together leaders in the field from government, the private sector, and non-profits who penned 18 chapters covering all aspects of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and its implementation.  The volume also covers related topics including state-level and international efforts to protect wildlife.

Steve Quarles, Paul Weiland, and Brian Ferrasci-O’Malley contributed a chapter in the volume on the prohibitions ...

WEBINAR: Linear Infrastructure Redux: Adapting Your Projects to Meet the New Regulatory Climate

Linear infrastructure projects, including oil and gas pipelines, electric transmission lines and transportation, have faced a number of regulatory challenges over the last year. Some of these challenges stem from changes in regulatory schemes, adverse court holdings or drastically shifting policy initiatives. Others result from the uncertainty inherent in pending listing decisions under the Endangered Species Act, updates to the Nationwide Permitting Program under the Clean Water Act, the ever-changing definition of Waters of the United States and the Biden ...

SCOTUS Won’t Wade Into the Chicken Coop

On June 7, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”) agreed with the Department of Justice and declined to hear a case brought by the Kansas Natural Resource Coalition (Coalition) challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) failure to submit the Policy for the Evaluation of Conservation Efforts (PECE) Policy to Congress under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).  The case, which represents a unique intersection between the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) (LEPC), the Service’s PECE Policy, and the CRA, appears to foreclose the ability ...

ESA Implementation Thrown Into Flux

On June 4, 2021, the Biden administration announced its intent to rescind or revise several implementing regulations for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) finalized under the prior administration. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has not yet published these proposed rules in the Federal Register, nor has the Service provided the exact dates when it intends to publish the proposed rules.

In its announcement, the Service indicates its intent to rescind regulations governing how the Service conducts critical habitat exclusion analyses under ESA section 4(b)(2) and how ...

Biden Administration Asks Supreme Court to Reject Challenge to ESA Rule

On May 14, 2021, the Department of Justice filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the Court should not hear the case of Kansas Natural Resource Coalition v. Department of Interior (“KNRC”). KNRC is a challenge to a rule interpreting the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) that was jointly issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) (collectively, the “Services”) in 2003: The “Policy for Evaluation of Conservation Efforts When Making Listing Decisions,”(68 Fed. Reg. 15,100 ...

D.C. Circuit Shuts Down Challenge to Species Status Assessments

In a per curiam decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) challenge to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) process for assessing the status of species to inform regulatory decisions with respect to those species.  That process, referred to as species status assessment (SSA), is akin to a biological risk assessment for the target species.  It has been developed by the Service over the past several years and provides a more structured approach to assessing listing, delisting, uplisting, and ...

The Chicken Saga Continues

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced the next chapter in the lesser prairie chicken’s (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) (LEPC) tumultuous listing history. On May 26, 2021 the USFWS announced that it will propose a rule to establish a Northern distinct population segment (DPS) and a Southern DPS of the LEPC.  USFWS has proposed to list the Southern DPS – consisting of portions of New Mexico and Texas – as endangered. If finalized, the ESA take prohibition would apply across the Southern DPS without exception. The USFWS proposes to list the Northern DPS ...

Ninth Circuit Strikes Down ESA 30-Day Listing Petition Rule

On May 17, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) rule requiring that affected states receive a 30-day notice of an intent to file a petition to list a species as endangered or threatened is inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). See Friends of Animals v. Haaland, Case No. 20-35318 (9th Cir. May 17, 2021); 50 C.F.R. § 424.14(b).

In reaching its decision, the Ninth Circuit reviewed the Service’s rulemaking under a two-step framework established by the Supreme Court in the landmark case Chevron U. S ...

Service Finds Salamanders Do Not Warrant Endangered Species Act Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced its finding that three salamander species do not warrant listing as endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service’s announcement follows a court-approved settlement agreement in which the Service agreed to make a 12-month finding for the Shasta salamander (Hydromantes shastae), Samwel salamander (H. samweli), and Wintu salamander (H. wintu). The finding comes despite concerns from some environmental groups that a proposed project to raise the height of the Shasta Dam and ...

Six Island Species to be Removed from ESA Protections

In the first week of May, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) proposed rules to remove six species from the lists of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).

On May 4, 2021, NMFS issued a proposed rule to remove Siderastrea glynni, a coral originally found at Urabá Island, Panama Gulf, from the ESA lists.  The coral was first discovered in 1992 and was initially thought to be the only extant Siderastrea species in the eastern Pacific Ocean.  NMFS received a petition to ...

Critical Habitat Designation Reduced for Northern Mexican Gartersnake

This week, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service") published a final rule designating critical habitat for the northern Mexican gartersnake (Thamnophis eques megalops) under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).  The final critical habitat designation includes a total of approximately 20,326 acres of land located in Arizona and New Mexico. 

The northern Mexican gartersnake, an olive-colored snake identifiable by a pattern of vertical yellow stripes and paired black dots lining its body, typically occurs in shallow wetlands and aquatic habitats, such ...

The Role of Conceptual Ecological Models in Implementing the Federal Endangered Species Act

This week, I published a post on the Center for California Water Resources Policy and Management’s DeltaCurrents blog discussing the role of conceptual ecological models in implementing the federal Endangered Species Act. Conceptual ecological models are a specialized subset of conceptual models generally intended to describe the environmental factors that affect an ecological community, a species, or a population. Conceptual ecological models are useful in a variety of contexts ranging from development of research proposals and monitoring schemes, to regulatory ...

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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