Posts in Fish & Wildlife Service.

On October 24, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register announcing the agency’s finding that the interior least tern (Sterna antillarum) is no longer warranted for listing as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)....

On October 7, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the agency’s 12-month findings that a dozen species are not warranted for listing as endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  In particular, the FWS decided not to list the yellow-cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis), a slow-growing but commercially in-demand tree that occurs from southern Alaska to northern California.  According to the FWS, yellow-cedars can live 500 to 700 years, with some individuals documented up to 1,600 years ...

On September 26, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado vacated and remanded in part the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) 2014 determination that listing the Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was not warranted ...

On August 27, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (Services) announced the finalization of regulations governing implementation of various aspects of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Among those regulations were rules setting forth how the Services and other federal agencies were to consult on potential impacts of federal activities on ESA-listed species and designated critical habitat.  The new rules were to go into effect on September 26, 2019.  Today, the Services ...

On September 13, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) posted a final rule removing the Foskett speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus ssp.) from the federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.  The dace, which was listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a threatened species in 1985, is being removed from the List of Threatened and Endangered Species on the basis of recovery.  In its final notice ...

On August 15, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a series of notices in the Federal Register announcing the agency’s 12-month and 90-day findings on petitions to list a number of species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Most prominently, the FWS declined to list two species commonly known as the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia and Yucca jaegeriana) ...

More than a year after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (collectively, Services) published proposals to revise several Endangered Species Act (ESA) implementing regulations, the agencies have announced that the final versions of the rules are ready for publication in the Federal Register ...

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is systematically revising species recovery plans issued under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  On August 6, 2019, USFWS published three notices of availability announcing public comment periods on its draft revisions to 70 recovery plans covering 121 species across the United States ...

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) and a group of landowners recently settled long-running litigation regarding the Service’s designation of approximately 1,500 acres of private land as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog (Rana sevosa).  The Service designated the private land in Louisiana as critical habitat in 2012.  Weyerhaeuser Co. and local landowners sued the Service, arguing that designation of the private land where the frog could not currently survive was overreach ...

In its newly-released proposed recovery plan for the Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has put into action its internal plan to add quantitative criteria to recovery plans.  The pupfish recovery plan, originally adopted in 1993, contained only qualitative criteria when adopted.  In its proposed revisions to the pupfish’s recovery plan, the Service adds quantitative criteria for whether the pupfish should be considered for delisting or when it has recovered, including the number of established populations that would make the ...

On May 22, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a proposal to list two intriguing North Carolina aquatic species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The FWS was spurred to act in part by a 2010 petition and subsequent litigation from environmental organizations to list over 400 aquatic species found in the southeastern United States. The two species the agency deems as needing protection in this proposed rule are the Carolina madtom (Noturus furiosus), a poisonous catfish, and the Neuse River waterdog (Necturus lewisi), a freshwater salamander.

The Carolina ...

On May 3, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule to downlist the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) from endangered to threatened. The Service also proposed a rule under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to allow many routine activities to occur within the range of the species, even if they result in incidental take of the species, in light of the fact that such activities do not affect the overall viability of the American burying beetle.

The American burying beetle is a nocturnal species that has a one year ...

Over the last few weeks, besides proposing to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Species (which we covered here), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has made a few other moves related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

On Monday, April 8, 2019, the Service published a final rule, removing one species from the List of Endangered and Threatened Species, adding 16 separate species to the list, and updating the existing entries for 17 more species.  Specifically, the Service added the following species to the ESA List: Gulf grouper ...

On March 28, 2019, a federal judge overturned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) rejection of a petition to delist an endangered karst invertebrate species, the Bone Cave harvestman (Texella reyeisi) (BCH), which is known to occur only in central Texas.

American Stewards of Liberty and others (Plaintiffs) had claimed that USFWS’ rejection of a 2014 petition to delist the BCH was arbitrary and capricious because, among other things, USFWS based its rejection on the petition’s supposed failure to provide BCH population trend data that was unavailable and is ...

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On March 15, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a proposed rule to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.  As we reported here, the Service announced its intention to issue the proposed rule earlier this month.  According to the Service, the species’ population has rebounded considerably since it was originally listed in 1978, when the population estimate was approximately 1,000 individuals.  Now, the Service estimates there is a Great Lakes meta-population with approximately 4,400 individuals, along with an ...

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Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, David Bernhardt, recently announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will publish a proposed rule removing federal protections under the Endangered Species Act for the endangered gray wolf (Canis lupus).  Secretary Bernhardt announced the plan at the 84th North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference in Denver, Colorado.

The gray wolf was originally listed as endangered in March 1978 throughout the contiguous United States, except in Minnesota, where the Service classified the species as ...

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On February 6, 2019, a federal judge upheld U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) 90-day finding that a petition to delist the endangered golden-cheeked warbler (Petition) did not present substantial information that delisting the warbler may be warranted (Negative 90-day Finding). In 2015,  various groups and individuals filed the Petition, which, among other things, alleged that because a 2015 study indicated that the golden-cheeked warbler and its habitat were far more abundant than the Service originally believed at the time of the bird’s listing in 1990, the bird ...

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On January 31, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced plans to amend up to 182 Endangered Species Act (ESA) recovery plans, which potentially cover over 305 animal and plant species, over the next year. These amendments will revise each recovery plan to include quantitative recovery criteria as part of the Department of the Interior’s Agency Priority Performance Goals. USFWS kicked off this 12-month push by releasing a notice of availability of 26 draft recovery plan amendments ...

The longest partial government shutdown in United States history is taking its toll on Endangered Species Act (ESA) policy initiatives championed by the Trump Administration, and is making ESA compliance and project completion significantly more difficult for a wide spectrum of industries. In July 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service published proposed changes to ESA implementing regulations relating to species listings, de-listings, critical habitat designations, and consultations under section 7 of the ESA. The ...

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The effects of the partial Federal government shutdown are being felt at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service"). The shutdown has virtually halted the Service's processing of pending rulemakings under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA"). As an example, while the comment period on the Service's proposed designation of 370 miles of critical habitat for the endangered candy darter (Etheostoma osburni) -- a freshwater fish found in portions of West Virginia and Virginia -- ran from November to January, the Service has posted only a handful of responsive comments online, with ...

Nossaman’s Environmental Practice attorneys will be off to a great start in 2019 presenting at many key events around the U.S. focused on endangered species and environmental issues.

First, on January 10th, Austin-based Environment & Land Use Partner Brooke Wahlberg will speak at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s 2019 Policy Orientation in Austin.  Brooke’s presentation is entitled Frogs or Freedom:  Are New Limitations Coming for the Endangered Species Act?  Policy Orientation is the premier gathering for all Americans interested in the future of the Lone Star State—and the country.  At Policy Orientation, scholars ...

On December 13, 2018, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado vacated an eagle take permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service") authorizing a construction company to disturb a pair of nesting bald eagles.  Front Range Nesting Bald Eagle Studies v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service et al., No. 1:18-cv-00356.  The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act ("BGEPA"), prohibits the disturbance of bald eagles or golden eagles.  The Service's regulations define disturb to mean ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has proposed (pdf) to designate approximately 12.28 acres of critical habitat for the Sonoyta mud turtle (Kinosternon sonoriense longifemorale) in Pima County, Arizona.  The proposed critical habitat would be located entirely within the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

The Service previously issued a final rule listing the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in September 2017, finding that the Sonoyta mud turtle has been threatened by habitat loss and degradation due to surface water loss and riparian ...

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On November 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an area is eligible to be designated as critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) only if the area is habitat for the relevant threatened or endangered species.  Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dkt. No. 17-71.  The Court vacated the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s decision, which held that the ESA has no habitability requirement, and remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit to consider the meaning of habitat under the ESA.  Additionally, the Court held that a decision by the U.S. Fish and ...

On November 21, 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a final rule listing the candy darter (Estheostoma osburni) as endangered and proposing critical habitat for the species.  The candy darter is a small, freshwater fish species native to Virginia and West Virginia.  The Service’s announcement finalizes its proposed rule to list the candy darter, which was published on October 4, 2017, with one significant difference – the Service originally proposed to list the candy darter as threatened, but the final rule lists the candy darter as endangered.

The candy ...

On November 4, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina granted summary judgment in favor of conservation organizations Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and Animal Welfare Institute in a case challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) administration of the recovery program for endangered red wolves (Canis rufus).

FWS began reintroducing red wolves in North Carolina in 1987.  Red wolves were designated as a non-essential experimental population under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  As such, FWS may only ...

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in California Sea Urchin Commission v. Combs (Combs), Docket No. 17-1636, an appeal from a Ninth Circuit decision regarding endangered Southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) and deference to the decisions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service).  As we reported here last month, the case was seen as a potential vehicle for the Court to take up the broader issue of Chevron deference, the legal doctrine that requires courts to defer to an agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous statute so long as that interpretation is ...

The last several days have seen a flurry of activity in the federal courts in matters involving the Endangered Species Act (ESA):

  • In Crown Indian Tribe v. United States, CV 17-89-M-DLC, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana vacated (pdf) a June 30, 2017 final rule issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) delisting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis). The court held that the Service violated the ESA when it delisted the Greater Yellowstone grizzly distinct population segment (DPS) without any analysis of ...
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As we reported here, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (together, the Services) recently proposed revisions to the regulations that implement portions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The submission deadline for comments was September 24, 2018.  If enacted, the Services assert that the proposed revisions would, among other things, streamline ESA consultations with other federal agencies and clarify the jeopardy standard.

The proposed revisions sparked a flurry of last minute comment submissions from environmental groups, who ...

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As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares for its upcoming October 2018 term, one petition concerning an endangered sea otter relocation program is attracting a lot of attention as a potential vehicle for the Court to consider the broader issue of Chevron deference, the legal doctrine that requires courts to defer to an agency’s reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute. The petition has also created odd bedfellows, as the Department of Justice under the Trump Administration finds itself arguing alongside several national environmental non-profit organizations that the ...

In recent weeks, the Trump Administration and Congress have proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and its implementing regulations. Lawmakers from the Congressional Western Caucus introduced nine bills that would, according to the 15 legislators that introduced the bills, amend and modernize the ESA.  The lawmakers assert that the bills would also incentivize voluntary conservation efforts, let states enter into cooperative agreements for recovery, and prioritize data from local communities in making scientific decisions about conservation.

The bills ...

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The most comprehensive Endangered Species Act (ESA) bill of this Congressional session made its debut on July 2, 2018 when Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, released a discussion draft of a bill proposing sweeping revisions to the ESA.  The discussion draft is a culmination of activity that began February 15, 2017, when the EPW committee held an oversight hearing on modernization of the ESA. Following that hearing, Senator Barrasso worked closely with the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) in drafting the ...

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On Monday, June 18, 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it has initiated five year status reviews for fifty species in California, Nevada, and the Klamath Basin of Oregon, pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Included among the species whose ESA listing status is being reviewed are 19 animal species, four of which are currently listed as threatened, while the remaining 14 are currently listed as endangered.  Additionally, the FWS is reviewing thirty-one plant species.

As part of its review, FWS will be accepting new information pertinent to the ...

On May 16, 2018, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed six bills, including the Federally Integrated Species Health Act (H.R. 3916).  H.R. 3916 is sponsored by Representative Ken Calvert, a Republican representing the 42nd Congressional District in California.  The bill proposes to amend the federal Endangered Species Act to vest the Secretary of Interior with Endangered Species Act authority over fish species that migrate between fresh and ocean waters, such as the endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinnok salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha).  ...

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) finalized its reclassification of the Tobusch fishhook cactus (Sclerocactus brevihamatus ssp. tobuschii), a small cactus found in Texas, downlisting the species from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

As previously reported here, the Service concluded that downlisting the cactus was warranted given an increase in the number of observed individuals. While only 200 cactuses were known when the species was listed as endangered in 1979, the Service now estimates there are more than 3,300 ...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan recently issued a guidance memorandum to USFWS’ Regional Directors to clarify the appropriate trigger for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  While this guidance was directed internally to USFWS staff to aid in determination of whether project-related habitat modification is likely to result in take of a listed species, it also serves as a tool for project proponents to determine whether to seek an ITP and whether to cover a given species in that ITP.

The guidance ...

On April 17, 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) reached a negative 90-day finding on a petition to remove the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) from the List of Threatened and Endangered Species.  The Service’s finding was in response to a petition to delist the mouse filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation in 2017.  The Service concluded that the petition presented no new information indicating that delisting the mouse is warranted.

The Service rejected the petition’s taxonomic argument that the mouse is not a distinct subspecies that ...

On April 3, 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a final to rule listing the yellow lance mussel (Elliptio lanceolata) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The final rule states that only seven populations of this freshwater mussel remain, all of which are located in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.  The listing was prompted by a mega-petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and several other environmental organizations in 2010 that included the mussel.  In September 2015, after litigation had been filed regarding the ...

On April 2, 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposed downlisting the Hawaiian goose (Branta sandvicensis), locally known as the nene, from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Service also proposed adopting a special rule pursuant to ESA section 4(d), known as a section 4(d) rule, allowing incidental take of nene for particular conservation and law enforcement functions.

The nene was federally listed as endangered in 1967, after the population fell below 30 individuals on Hawaii’s Big Island.  The Service instituted a ...

On March 16, 2018, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) announced the withdrawal of its 2016 proposed rule to list San Fernando Valley spineflower (Chorizanthe parryi var. fernandina), a southern California plant species, as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The spineflower’s conservation has been one component of the long-standing conflict over the development of Newhall Ranch in northern Los Angeles County, since its discovery on the property in 2000.

According to FWS, the spineflower no longer meets the statutory definition of a threatened or ...

On February 27, 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finalized a regulation removing Eureka Valley evening-primrose (Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants.  The delisting, originally proposed in 2014, is based on the elimination of threats to the subspecies, accomplished largely as a result of the 1994 designation and ongoing management of its dune habitat as federal wilderness within Death Valley National Park.  The National Park Service manages the federal wilderness area under the Park Service’s Organic ...

In a recent decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed (pdf) that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) permit allowing take of the barred owl (Strix varia) to protect the threatened Northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) did not violate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).  The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon held that nothing in the MBTA limits take of a species for scientific purposes to only those situations where the research is aimed at conservation of the species taken.

The case arose from the Service’s 2008 Recovery ...

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On January 22, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court granted review of the petition for writ of certiorari in Weyerhauser Co. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, No. 17-71.  Petitioners challenge a 2-1 panel decision issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, affirming a rule issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) designating critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog (Rana sevosa) and including areas within critical habitat that the frog could not currently inhabit.

The dusky gopher frog spends most of its life underground in open-canopied pine forests.  ...

On December 27, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit partially reversed and remanded a decision by the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii, delaying if not derailing an expansion in shallow-set longline swordfish fisheries.  Environmental groups brought claims against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) alleging violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Endangered Species Act (ESA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), and the National Environmental ...

As 2018 approaches, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) made a few announcements that will likely impact the list of threatened and endangered species.  In these last 11 days of 2017, the Service announced 90-day findings on petitions to list or reclassify five species, and 12-month findings on petitions to list or de-list two species under the ESA.

  • On December 20, 2017, the Service announced 90-day findings on petitions for five separate species. The Service found that the petitioned actions for each of the five species may be warranted, based on the information presented in ...

In the Fall 2017 publication of the Unified Agenda of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Department of the Interior announced its intent to revise the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regulations governing interagency cooperation and exceptions to the conservation of endangered and threatened species of fish, wildlife, and plants. In a separate announcement in the same publication, the Department of the Interior stated that it intends to revise regulations governing the listing of endangered and threatened species and the designation of critical ...

On October 25, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) released a report entitled Review of the Department of the Interior Actions that Potentially Burden Domestic Energy identifying agency actions that potentially burden the development or use of domestic energy resources.  This report, generated in response to Executive Order 13783, identifies several costly and burdensome regulations that DOI believes hamper the production or transmission of domestic energy.  The report pays particular attention to the oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy sectors, and ...

Nossaman LLP’s own Steven P. Quarles and Brooke M. Wahlberg are co-chairing CLE International’s upcoming 2nd Annual MBTA and BGEPA:  Hot Topics in Avian Protection conference.  This timely, in-person CLE will explore the complexities of federal wildlife laws and rules to protect migratory birds and eagles under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA).  Speakers will include state and federal policy makers, industry leaders, environmental advocates, and leading practitioners in the field.  Held in Denver, Colorado, from November 30 through December 1, the conference presents a unique opportunity for professionals involved in and affected by endangered species issues, rules, and regulations to learn from in-depth presentations on topics including:

On Thursday, October 5, 2017, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) announced 12-month not warranted findings on petitions to list 25 species as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  It is likely that the Service’s not warranted findings represent the Trump administration’s departure from the previous administration’s  90-day determinations wherein the Service found that the petitions contain substantial information that listing may be warranted.  For over half of the 25 species, the not warranted findings satisfy the terms of various ...

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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