Posts in Fish & Wildlife Service.
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 ...

USFWS Updates Eagle Fatality Model for Wind Facilities

On May 5, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) published its updated collision risk model (“CRM”) for bald and golden eagles at wind energy facilities.  The CRM is a complex Bayesian model the USFWS has endorsed to predict eagle fatalities at wind energy facilities seeking eagle incidental take authorization under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (“BGEPA”).  The USFWS previously published the proposed updates to CRM for public comment on two occasions, seeking input on three alternatives: (1) Use updated species-specific model inputs and use the ...

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 ...

WEBINAR: Charting a Course for Offshore Wind Energy in California

Please join us on May 6, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PT as Nossaman’s Coastal Development and Environment & Land Use Groups present “Charting a Course for Offshore Wind Energy in California” to discuss current proposals and pending regulations concerning offshore wind development along the California coast.

We will be participating on a top tier panel of coastal specialists which will also include: Kate Huckelbridge, Deputy Director of Energy, Ocean Resources & Federal Consistency, CA Coastal Commission; Jennifer Lucchesi, Executive Officer, State Lands ...

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 ...

Fifth Circuit Upholds USFWS Approval of Liquified Natural Gas Facility

On March 10, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a biological opinion (BiOp) and incidental take statement (ITS) issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in connection with a $5.2 billion project to export liquefied natural gas from a terminal located on the south bank of the Brownsville Ship Channel in Cameron County, Texas (Project). Sierra Club v. Dep’t of the Interior, Case No. 20-60319 (5th Cir. 2021).  In reaching its decision, the Fifth Circuit refused to second-guess the agencies consistent with the deferential standard of ...

Is The God Squad Heading Toward Extinction?

In the 1978 amendments to the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Congress created the Endangered Species Act Committee, also know as the “God Squad.” The God Squad is composed of mostly Cabinet-level officials and has the authority to exempt a federal agency action from the ESA’s prohibition on taking actions that could lead to the extinction of an endangered or threatened species. While the God Squad has been around for more than four decades, its awesome powers have rarely been invoked. Perhaps due to scientific advances, it is possible that the God Squad may itself be heading for ...

Department of the Interior Takes Steps Toward Reversal of Position on Migratory Birds Protections

Recently, the Department of the Interior released a pre-publication version of a Federal Register notice delaying the effective date of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) take definitional rule to March 8, 2021, and opening a 20-day public comment period, which will close March 1, 2021.  The MBTA was enacted in 1918 to implement an international convention for the protection of migratory birds in response to declines in populations of a number of species of birds resulting from widespread hunting and poaching.  The take definitional rule states in full:

“The prohibitions of the ...
Court Rejects Challenge to Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan

In December 2020, the United States District Court for the District of Montana issued an order on cross-motions for summary judgment concluding that it lacked jurisdiction—under both the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA)—to hear a lawsuit involving an environmental group’s denied request to update an existing recovery plan for the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis). Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt, CV 19-109-M-DLC, at 26 (D. Mont. Dec. 23, 2020) (Order). After listing the grizzly bear nearly half a century ago, the U.S ...

Biden Administration to Review Species Rules and Related Frameworks

On January 20, 2021, President Biden announced his administration will review regulatory actions taken between January 20, 2017 and January 20, 2021 in accordance with an Executive Order titled “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis” (EO). Among the agency actions to be reviewed under the EO are a number of regulations and policies finalized by the Trump Administration involving Endangered Species Act (ESA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), and other related statutes.

An initial pre-publication announcement ...

Service Removes Interior Least Tern from Endangered Species List

On January 13, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a final rule to remove the inland population of the Interior least tern (Sterna (now Sternula) antillarum) from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Originally listed as an endangered species under the ESA in 1985, the Interior least tern is a small, fish-eating bird occurring along the Arkansas, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Red, and Rio Grande rivers.  

Prior to listing, the Interior least tern’s population had fallen below 2,000 as a result of habitat ...

NMFS Proposes Rule to Reduce North Atlantic Right Whale Entanglements in Fishing Gear

On December 31, 2020, the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) proposed to amend regulations implementing the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan (“ALWTRP” or “Plan”) with the stated goal of reducing the incidental mortality and serious injury to the endangered North Atlantic right whale, as well as fin whales and humpback whales, in the Northeast commercial lobster and crab trap/pot fisheries. The agency stated that the amendment is needed in order to comply with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (“MMPA”) and the Endangered Species Act (“ESA” ...

Trump Administration Finalizes Migratory Bird Rule

On January 7, 2021, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a final rule limiting the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)’s prohibition on the take of migratory birds. The new rule excludes incidental take, meaning bird mortality that results from an action but is not the purpose of that action. 

This rule is the culmination of Trump Administration efforts that began shortly after it took office to reverse prior agency policy and limit the scope of the MBTA. The rule does not take effect until February 6, 2021 and so may be suspended by the incoming Biden ...

Template for Mitigation Banking Instruments in California to be Revised

On December 3, 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other agencies (collectively, “Agencies”) announced an update to the standard Bank Enabling Instrument (“BEI”) template for use in connection with the development of mitigation banks that will be located in or propose service areas within the State of California.

BEI templates are used in connection with the approval of mitigation banks the purpose of which is to provide mitigation for projects that have received authorizations from ...

Monarch Placed on Candidate List

On December 17, 2020 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) published its 12-month finding that listing of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus) is warranted but precluded by higher priority actions. With this finding, the monarch becomes a candidate species with a listing priority designation of “8.”  An “8” indicates the magnitude of threats to the monarch is moderate to low and those threats are imminent. In the announcement, the USFWS notes that 161 other species are currently prioritized above the monarch for listing consideration. Each year ...

Federal Wildlife Agencies Release Final Rule Defining “Habitat”

On December 15, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, the agencies) released a pre-publication version of a final rule providing a definition of “habitat” for the purpose of informing designation of areas as “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act.  The agencies released a proposed rule defining habitat in August 2020 in response to a unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019 overturning a lower court decision that upheld a controversial determination of critical habitat by the U.S. Fish and ...

Tiger King Lawsuits Take 2

On November 19, 2020, in a call back to its criminal lawsuit against Joseph “Tiger King” Maldonado-Passage, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit against the husband and wife team who took over the wildlife park that was front and center throughout the Netflix hit series Tiger King – Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe. Unlike the prior lawsuit against Mr. Maldonado-Passage (previously covered here), the lawsuit against the Lowes does not seek jail time, nor does it seek damages. Instead, the lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma to (1 ...

Gray Wolf Removed from Endangered Species List & Environmental Groups File Notice of Intent to Sue

On November 3, 2020, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (“Service”) published a final rule removing the gray wolf (canis lupus) from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Species in the lower 48 United States and Mexico. The rule will take effect on January 4, 2021. At the same time, the Service denied a petition, filed by environmental groups, to maintain protections for the gray wolf in the lower 48 United States. However, the Service did maintain the separate listing of the Mexican wolf subspecies as endangered, a listing that was put in place on January 16, 2015; the ...

Smelt Get a Review, But No Change In Status

On November 16, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) published its annual review of species that are candidates for listing as either threatened or endangered species, its findings on resubmitted petitions for listing actions, and its annual description of progress on pending listing actions.  Among those pending listing actions are two petitions that are highly relevant for water agencies and water users in California – a petition to reclassify the delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) and the pending listing of the longfin smelt (Spirinchus ...

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The United States Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service") recently released a pre-publication version of its final rule to reclassify the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).  The final rule will also include 4(d) rule provisions that specify when the ESA section 9 take prohibitions will apply to the beetle.

The American burying beetle, which gets its name from its tendency to burrow under vegetation or into soil during the daytime and throughout the winter hibernation season, is the largest ...

USFWS Proposes Rule Codifying “Critical Habitat” Exclusion Analysis

On September 8, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a proposed rule codifying procedures for excluding areas of “critical habitat” under section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). ESA section 4(b)(2) provides discretionary authority to the USFWS and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), as administrators of the ESA, to exclude certain areas from critical habitat designations for species within their purview. These agencies can exclude areas from a critical habitat designation where the agencies conclude the benefits of excluding the areas ...

Kangaroo Rat: From Endangered to Threatened

On August 19, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule that would remove the Stephens’ kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stephensi) from the federal list of Endangered Species. The proposed rule would, instead, list the kangaroo rat as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and would provide a rule under ESA section 4(d) to provide for conservation of the kangaroo rat.

The Stephens’ kangaroo rat was originally listed as an endangered species in 1988. It is a small, nocturnal mammal, with external cheek pouches, large hind legs, a long tail ...

California Fish and Game Commission Defers Decision on Joshua Tree

The California Fish and Game Commission deferred the decision on whether to make the western Joshua tree a candidate for listing to a special meeting in September 2020. In a hearing on August 20, 2020, the Commission heard a wide variety of perspectives on whether listing the species may be warranted. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 90-day evaluation recommended a “may be warranted” finding but at the hearing Director Bonham indicated he was open to deferring the decision in order to work with the stakeholders ... 

Federal Wildlife Agencies Propose Rule to Define Habitat

The Departments of Commerce and the Interior (Departments) have completed a proposed rule to define the term “habitat” as that term is used in the context of designating “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed rule will soon be published in the Federal Register. Upon publication, the public will be given 30 days to submit comments. If finalized, the definition will be included in the joint regulations developed by the two Departments to implement section 4(a)(3)(A)(i) of the ESA. The ESA, itself, defines the term “critical habitat” but ...

Ninth Circuit Rejects Greater Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting

For the second time in a decade, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has invalidated a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to remove the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) population from the federal endangered species list.  Crow Indian Tribe v. State of Wyoming, Case No. 18-36038 (9th Cir. July 8, 2020).  In 2011, the Ninth Circuit invalidated the decision to delist the Greater Yellowstone grizzly population because the evidence did not support the Service’s conclusion that the decline of white bark pine did not threaten the ...

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Transmission Line Permit Invalidated, USFWS Ordered to Redo Endangered Species Act Analyses

On June 17, 2020, a federal court in Colorado vacated an incidental take permit (ITP) issued to the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) authorizing take of the endangered American burying beetle (ABB) that could occur in connection with NPPD’s construction and operation of the 225-mile R-Project transmission line (R Project). The court vacated the ITP on the grounds that its issuance by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act ...

Trump Executive Order: Environmental Streamlining or Political Quagmire?

On June 4, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to provide federal agencies the foundation to speed up environmental permitting in the wake of COVID-19. While the move was lauded by many, others view the executive order as an impermissible use of executive power to circumvent environmental protections. The Center for Biological Diversity has already announced its plans to pursue litigation challenging the EO, alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act. 

Executive Order 13927, “Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency ...

Service Seeking Comments on Fisher Conservation Agreement 

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service") has recently received an application for an incidental take permit under Endangered Species Act section 10(a)(l)(A) to authorize take of the West Coast distinct population segment ("DPS") of fisher (Pekania pennanti) ("fisher") should it or its subpopulations become federally listed. As we have previously reported, the Service recently listed the Southern Sierra Nevada DPS of fisher as an endangered species.

The permit application, submitted by Oregon-based timberland investment company Chinook Forest Partners ...

Fishers Get ESA Protection in Southern Sierra

On May 15, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service") published a final rule in the Federal Register announcing the agency’s determination to list the Southern Sierra Nevada (SSN) Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of fisher (Pekania pennanti) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The fisher is a small, carnivorous mammal in the mustelid (commonly referred to as weasel) family. The SSN DPS of fisher, which occurs in California, was recently determined by the Service to be a separate subpopulation of the West Coast DPS.

The Service first proposed to list ...

While section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) generally prohibits the “taking” of an endangered species, under section 10 of the ESA the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) may issue a permit exempting an activity from the take prohibition if the take is for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of an endangered species. Under the authority provided by section 10, the Service established the Captive Bred Wildlife permitting program (Program). The Program permits a registrant to export, import, deliver, receive, carry, sell, transport, and ship an endangered species if such activity is to enhance the propagation or survival of the species.

In the early part of this century the Phoenix Herpetological Society, Inc. (Society) applied to and was registered under the Program for certain species. Over the years the Society applied for various amendments to its registration. Some of these amendments were granted, and some were not.

In February 2018, the Society applied to amend its registration to include the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) ...

Tiger King Shines Light on an Endangered Species Act Quirk

The sweeping and rapid ascent to popularity of Netflix Inc.'s "Tiger King" documentary series has fueled new interest in two congressional bills that stalled in committee last year, and has drawn public attention to a quirk of the Endangered Species Act, or ESA.

I recently authored the article, "'Tiger King' Shines Light on an Endangered Species Act Quirk" for Law360. This piece examines ...

On April 8, 2020 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced its next step in conservation of the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus): finalization of the Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterfly on Energy and Transportation Lands (Monarch CCAA/CCA). The Monarch CCAA/CCA functions as both a candidate conservation agreement with assurances (CCAA) covering non-federal lands and a candidate conservation agreement (CCA) covering federal lands.

Authorized by Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations, CCAAs are agreements ...

COVID-19 And Endangered Species Act Compliance

Many projects require federal incidental take authority due to impacts on species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). Depending upon the species, this federal take authority is obtained either from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) or National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”). These agencies provide take authority either through a Section 7 (federal consultation) incidental take statement or Section 10 (Habitat Conservation Plan) incidental take permit. These authorizations almost always require the permittee to undertake ...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Withdraws Proposal to List Bi-State Population of Greater Sage Grouse, Designate Critical Habitat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has withdrawn its 2013 proposals to list the bi-state distinct population segment of the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in California and Nevada as threatened, to designate critical habitat, and to issue a species-specific Endangered Species Act section 4(d) rule. The Service indicated in its withdrawal that the agency has concluded that threats to the species were not as significant as the agency believed in 2013.

The listing, critical habitat, and 4(d) rules for the bi-state distinct population segment of the ...

Do Yellowstone Park Bison Deserve ESA Protection?

According to a handful of environmental groups, the answer is a definitive yes. And after the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (“FWS”) issued a 90-day finding concluding in the alternative, earlier this week three environmental groups decided to take FWS to court. The lawsuit was filed by the Buffalo Field Campaign, Friends of Animals, and Western Watersheds Project. According to the press release issued by one of the environmental groups, FWS “applied the wrong evidentiary standard, and disregarded evidence of factors that imperil the unique and distinct subpopulations of ...

Tenth Circuit Sends Jaguar Critical Habitat Back to District Court

On March 17, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (Tenth Circuit) overturned a New Mexico district court decision in which the lower court upheld the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) designation of two units of critical habitat for the jaguar (Panthera onca). In 2014, USFWS designated more than 750,000 acres of critical habitat, spread across 6 critical habitat units (CHU) in Arizona and New Mexico. USFWS based its designation of two of these CHUs – CHUs 5 and 6 – in part on the agency’s position that these CHUs were occupied by the jaguar at the time the ...

California Files Challenge to Federal Decisions Governing Operation of California Water Projects

The State of California recently sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue to the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior and concurrently filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the biological opinions and associated environmental impact statement (EIS) for operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project (collectively, the “Projects”).  The Projects provide water to more than 25 million water users in northern, central, and southern California, and are one of the primary sources of water for wholesale water ...

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On February 19, 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation issued a Record of Decision (ROD) on the reinitiation of consultation on the coordinated long-term operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.  At the same time, the President signed a memorandum on developing and delivering more water supplies in California. The Department of the Interior issued a press release describing these actions. 

The execution of the ROD signals the shift from operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project under the biological opinions issued by the U.S. Fish and ...

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently affirmed a lower court decision that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers need not consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act regarding the operation of dams and other facilities on the Rio Grande River, in WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, No. 18-2153 (10th Cir. Jan. 17, 2020).  The dispositive issue in the case was whether the Corps has discretion to act such that it is obliged to engage in consultation regarding the effects of its operation of the Middle Rio ...

On January 28, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a notice and request for information in connection with USFWS’s initiation of 5-year status reviews for 66 species found in California and Nevada.  Among the species subject to review are the bay checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha bayensis), Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierra), the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), Morro Bay kangaroo rat (Dipodomys heermanni morroensis), and many other plants and wildlife species.  A full list of species subject to the 5-year ...

Service Launches Comprehensive Review of Grizzly Bear ESA Status

On Tuesday, January 14, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a federal register notice that it will be commencing a comprehensive study of the status of the Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis).  This study, called a 5-year status review, could lead to a change in the bear’s status as a protected species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  This 5-year review was spurred by a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, which alleged that the Service failed to complete the required status review on time.  The Service and Center for Biological ...

On January 15, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a lower court decision that upheld the determination of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) denying a petition to delist the Golden-Cheeked Warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia) (Warbler). The Service listed the Warbler as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1990, initially on an emergency basis.

The petition to delist the Warbler was submitted to the Service in 2015 by a group of petitioners that included the General Land Office of the State of Texas. The petition ...

On January 6, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register announcing the agency’s finding that the Kanab ambersnail (Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis) is no longer warranted for listing as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed rule states that the Kanab ambersnail does not represent a valid taxonomic entity, and therefore does not meet the definition of “species” under the ESA. The ESA defines “species” as including ''any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature.”

The Kanab ambersnail, which gets its name from its mottled, amber-colored shell, is a terrestrial snail ...

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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