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The California Fish & Game Commission (Commission) voted this week to designate the Clear Lake hitch (Lavinia exilicauda)—a fish found only in Clear Lake and its tributaries—as a candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). This week’s vote triggered a one-year formal review period during which the status of the fish will be assessed.

The Clear Lake hitch population has declined dramatically due to a loss of spawning habitat in the tributaries feeding into Clear Lake. Other causes of the decline of the fish include migration barriers that block ...

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On March 1, 2013, the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) received protection (pdf) under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  The protections prohibit anyone from hunting, pursuing, or otherwise harming the species.  Commercial fisheries that could incidentally take a shark in fishing nets, as well as scientists wishing to tag a shark for research, will have to obtain permits from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  As reported here, the protections are the result of the California Fish and Game Commission's decision to make the species a ...

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On February 6, 2013, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) voted to make the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) a candidate for protection under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  The Commission determined that listing the species as threatened or endangered under CESA may be warranted, and initiated a one-year comprehensive review to evaluate the status of the species.  Based on this review, the Commission will make a final decision next year regarding whether to list the species.  The species will receive protection under CESA while the ...

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On February 1, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its proposal to list the wolverine (Gulo gulo luscus) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.  The proposed listing is the result of a court-ordered deadline established by a controversial settlement between the Service and two environmental organizations.  (See our posts from January 4 and January 14 for a discussion of this controversy.)

The wolverine resembles a small bear.  Adults weigh between 17 and 40 pounds.  The range of the species includes portions of California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana ...

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On January 25, 2013, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule (pdf) to list the Zuni bluehead sucker (Catostomus discobolus yarrowi) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The sucker had been on the candidate list since 2001, when the Service determined that the species warranted protection under the ESA, but listing was precluded by higher priority listing activities.

The Zuni bluehead sucker has a torpedo-shaped body and bluish head.  The average length of a mature fish is approximately 200 centimeters (8 ...

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

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

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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Department) has determined (pdf) that there is sufficient scientific information to petition to list the Northeastern Pacific (NEP) population of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.  Currently, the take and possession of white sharks is protected from sport and commercial fishing activities, with limited exceptions, under existing laws.  However, the scientific information in the petition demonstrates that the species may benefit from ...

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On December 28, 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a final rule (pdf) listing three subspecies of the ringed seal as threatened and one subspecies as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The same day, NMFS listed (pdf) two distinct population segments of the bearded seal as threatened under the ESA. Based on the best scientific and commercial data available, NMFS concluded that a significant decrease in snow ice is probable later this century, and that these changes will likely cause these seal populations to decline. A species is considered ...

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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 ...

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On December 11, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposed listing (pdf) four subspecies of the Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Service also proposed designating 9,234 acres of critical habitat in Thurston and Pierce counties in the state of Washington. The four subspecies proposed for listing are the Olympia, Roy Prairie, Tenino and Yelm pocket gophers. The Service declared a fifth subspecies, the Tacoma pocket gopher, as extinct. The pocket gophers were proposed for listing last October, but the action ...

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

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

On November 26, 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS or the Service) accepted a petition to delist a distinct population segment (DPS) of the Southern Resident killer whales, which is currently listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

The DPS, estimated to include 88 individuals, was initially listed as endangered under the ESA in 2005.  These killer whales are "resident" type, fish-eating whales that spend a specific period of time each year in the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound. 

On August 2, 2012, the Service received a petition from the ...

On November 30, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a proposed rule (pdf) to list the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  While voluntary conservation planning efforts are ongoing, the Service decided (pdf) to move forward with the proposed rule based on scientific evidence that the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat are in decline.  The Service encouraged the public and scientific community to comment on the proposed rule during the 90-day comment period.  The Service ...

On November 5, 2012, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) encouraging the Service to consider an innovative approach to support conservation of the lesser prairie chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus): through the use of habitat credit exchanges between companies and landowners.  The letter comes at a time when the Service is considering whether to propose to list the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Currently the Service has determined that listing of the species "is warranted ...

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On October 18, 2012, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition (pdf) requesting that the California Fish and Game Commission list the Townsend's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) as endangered or threatened throughout its range in California.  The petition states that the bat is in widespread decline throughout the western United States, and that the bat is "severely threatened by a combination of disturbance of cave and mine sites, loss of mine and cave habitat to mining, logging and urban development, white-nose syndrome and other factors."  The next step in ...

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In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) reached a settlement agreement with environmental groups in which it agreed to make final listing decisions on over 200 species over the next six years. Last month, we noted that the national effects of this settlement agreement had yet to be fully discerned.  (See Signs of Trouble Ahead?)  Today, its effects became a little clearer as the Service issued a proposed rule to list the Mount Charleston blue butterfly (Icaricia shasta charlestonensis) as an endangered specie.  In addition, the Service intends to list as threatened ...

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On September 17, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced (pdf) that it had issued a final rule listing 23 species native to the Hawaiian island of Oahu as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  The species include 20 plants and three damselflies. The rule follows a legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity that required the agency to make determinations with respect to 757 species, including 17 of the 23 Oahu species granted protection.  At the same time it issued the listing determinations, the Service designated 42,804 acres (or ...

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On September 4, 2012, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will issue a final rule today listing the Franciscan manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana) as an endangered species under the Federal Endangered Species Act.  (See article by Peter Fimrite).  The Chronicle also reported that the Service proposes to designate more than 300 acres of critical habitat in San Francisco for the plant.  The proposed critical habitat includes areas in Presidio, Corona Heights, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson, Diamond Heights, Bernal Heights, and Bayview ...

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

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An article was published today in the E&E Reporter entitled "Petitions for new species protection wobble balance in FWS settlement with environmentalists."  The article, authored by Allison Winter, provides an interesting lens through which to view the ongoing struggle between the federal wildlife agencies and environmental groups.  In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), Wild Earth Guardians, and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into a settlement agreement, which was subsequently approved by a federal court, obligating ...

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

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

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Effective August 13, 2012, the Chupadera springsnail's 28-year candidacy for listing will be over.  In a final rule (pdf) issued July 12, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Chupadera springsnail (Pyrgulopsis chupaderae)  as endangered, and designated critical habitat for the species in the only two units where it is known to occur in Socorro County, New Mexico.

The Chupadera springsnail is a tiny freshwater snail endemic ot Willow Spring and an unnamed spring nearby located on private land near the southeast end of the Chupadera Mountains.  Because the ...

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The Fish and Wildlife Service made a decision (pdf) recently not to list the dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  The distribution of the small, light brown lizard is limited to western Texas and southeastern New Mexico. The status of the species has been uncertain for a number of years; in 2004 the Service determined that listing the species was warranted but precluded by higher priority actions and in 2010 the Service proposed to list the species as endangered.  The potential listing of the species drew strong ...

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On May 23, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Morelet's crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) from the list of federal endangered and threatened species.  The species was first listed as endangered in June, 1970.  The listing was due primarily to over-harvesting for commercial purposes.  Shortly thereafter, restrictions on the commercial harvest and trade of the species were instituted.  In 2005, after a survey had established the widespread distribution and relative abundance of the species, the Government of Mexico filed a petition seeking to ...

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

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

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently concluded that listing of the Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the Upper Klamath and Trinity Rivers Basin as threatened or endangered is not warranted.  The agency made the 12-month finding following receipt of a petition to list the species in January 2011 from the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Environmental Protection Information Center, and The Larch Company.

In its 12-month finding, NMFS included both spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon populations in the Klamath River Basin ...

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The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) has determined that protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the San Francisco Bay-Delta (Bay-Delta) population of longfin smelt is warranted but precluded. The Service also determined that listing the longfin smelt rangewide is not warranted at this time.

The Service’s decision is in response to a lawsuit brought by environmental groups challenging the Service’s 2009 determination (pdf) that the Bay-Delta population of longfin smelt is not distinct from other populations in the species’ geographic range. In a ...

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The Pacific Legal Foundation has filed a lawsuit (pdf) in order to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to make a determination whether to delist the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus), a species with a distribution from southern Shasta County to Fresno County in California's Central Valley.  The lawsuit was reported by a number of news outlets including the Sacramento Bee (March 15, 2012, by Matt Weiser).

The valley elderberry longhorn beetle was listed by the Service as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1980.  At that time, the ...

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As Dean Kuipers reported in the Los Angeles Times, on February 27, four environmental groups petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to list the gray wolf (Canis lupis) as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.  The petition is available here (pdf).  As I previously reported, a lone gray wolf briefly crossed the border from Oregon to California in December 2011.  The last documented gray wolf in the State prior to that time was seen in 1924.

The status of the gray wolf under the federal Endangered Species Act is described here (pdf).

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In a final rule (pdf) published today, the Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service") uplisted the spikedace (Meda fulgida) and loach minnow (Tiaroga cobitis) from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  The Service also revised the designation of critical habitat for both species.  In total, approximately 630 miles are designated as critical habitat for spikedace and 610 miles are designated as critical habitat for loach minnow.  The critical habitat designations are in Arizona and New Mexico.  The Service excluded portions of the upper San Pedro River in Arizona as ...

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As the Department of Fish and Game(DFG)  reported, at its February 2012 meeting the California Fish and Game Commission "moved to list the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae) as a threatened species and the southern mountain yellow-legged frog (R. muscosa) as an endangered species."  The latter is listed (pdf) as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), and a final rule (pdf) designating critical habitat for the species was promulgated in 2006.  The former is a candidate for listing under the federal ESA.

According to DFG, "Mountain yellow-legged frogs ...

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As previously blogged about here, on December 9, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (Services) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (PDF) in the Federal Register that will, if adopted, change the Services' standards for listing and delisting species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by re-interpreting the definitions of "threatened" and "endangered" species in the ESA.

In a letter to the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (PDF) dated January 26, 2012, Congressman Markey, the ranking ...

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has prepared a 90-day finding (pdf) under the Endangered Species Act, in which it concludes that list of the ‘I’iwi (Vestiaria coccinea) as threatened or endangered  may be warranted, according to an article in Greenwire by April Reese.  The species, also known as the scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper, is endemic to Hawaii, and its known distribution is limited to the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Oahu, and Kauai.

The Service received a petition to list the species on August 25, 2010, from Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, and Dr ...

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On January 12, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found, after completing a 90-day review, that a petition to list the Humboldt marten (Martes americana humboldtensis) as an endangered or threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act presented substantial scientific information indicating that listing may be warranted.  The Service will now conduct a comprehensive status review of the species to determine whether listing of the Humboldt marten is warranted.  The Service will be accepting comments on the Humboldt marten until March 12, 2012. 

For almost 50 years ...

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The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced this week a 90-day finding (pdf) on a petition (pdf) submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity to list the Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator) as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate critical habitat. As reported in the Sacramento Bee and the Modesto Bee, the Service stated that there is enough evidence to consider protecting the fox based on its small population, threats from off-road vehicles and disease transmission from dogs.

The fox, considered one of the ...

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As recently reported by Matt Weiser of the Sacramento Bee, on December 15, 2011, the California Fish and Game Commission named the black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) a candidate species.  Under the California Endangered Species Act, the Department of Fish and Game now has 12 months to complete a status review of the species "based on the best scientific information available" and submit a report and listing recommendation to the Commission.  After receiving the Department's recommendation and all appropriate public comment at a public hearing, the Commission will ...

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Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (Services) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (PDF) in the Federal Register that will, if adopted, change the Services' standards for listing and delisting species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  See Draft Policy on Interpretation of the Phrase ‘‘Significant Portion of Its Range’’ in the Endangered Species Act’s Definitions of ‘‘Endangered Species’’ and ‘‘Threatened Species.’’ 76 Fed. Reg. 76,987 (Dec. 9, 2011). 

Under the ...

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In response to a petition (pdf) from the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) to delist the coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica) under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a 90-day finding (pdf) that the petition does not present substantial scientific or commercial information to indicate that delisting the species may be warranted.  PLF argued that the coastal California gnatcatcher is not a valid subspecies and should therefore be delisted.  In response, the Service acknowledged "that the taxonomic ...

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On October 7, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service") announced that the California state fish, the California golden trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita), did not warrant listing under the federal Endangered Species Act because "conservation measures throughout the trout's historic range have done much to protect the species."   

In 2000, Trout Unlimited petitioned the Service to list the California golden trout citing habitat degradation from grazing, hybridization and introgression threats from introduced rainbow trout, predation and ...

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Last week, the Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) announced a 12-month finding (PDF) that the Mohave ground squirrel (Spermophilus mohavensis) does not warrant protection as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service’s finding was in response to a petition from the Defenders of Wildlife and a private citizen to list the species as endangered.

In April 2010, the Service issued a finding that concluded the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the Mohave ground squirrel may be ...

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In 1978, the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) was listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.  On September 16, 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a Final Rule revising the listing for the Loggerhead Sea Turtle from a single threatened species to nine distinct population segments.  In the Final Rule five distinct population segments were listed as endangered and four were listed as threatened.  Jim Lecky, director of protected species at NOAA Fisheries, stated ...

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Last week, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced (PDF) a 12-month finding to list the Franciscan manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana) -- a plant previously thought to be extinct in the wild -- as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The plant, native to the San Francisco peninsula, had not been seen in the wild since 1947.  As we previously reported here, in fall 2009, a botanist identified a single specimen in an area adjacent to Doyle Drive in San Francisco.  A conservation plan was quickly designed for the plant, which was then transplanted to the ...

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On August 15, 2011, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published a Federal Register notice (pdf) announcing the five-year review reports for six species of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). NMFS completed reviews for five Pacific salmon species evolutionary significant units (ESUs), and one steelhead distinct population segment (DPS) in California. Specifically, reviews were completed for the Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon (pdf), the Central Valley spring-run Chinook (pdf), the Central Valley steelhead (pdf ...

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On August 15, 2011, after a little more then a decade of protection, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that the Lake Erie water snake (Nerodia sipedon insularum) was recovered and that it has been removed from the list of threatened and endangered species.  The Service, which listed the Lake Erie water snake as a threatened species in 1999, stated that the recovery was achieved through minimizing and reducing "the threats to the snake by sustaining and protecting summer and hibernation habitats and ensuring the permanent protection of shoreline ...

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The Fish and Wildlife Service announced it is listing the Miami blue butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri) as endangered on an emergency  basis under the Endangered Species Act.  The agency decision (pdf) appears in the August 10, 2011 Federal Register.  The species "is currently known to occur at only a few small remote islands within the Florida Keys."  This current distribution is dramatically smaller than the historic distribution, according to the Service: "the Miami blue has undergone a substantial reduction in its historical range, with an estimated > 99 percent ...

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On August 8, 2011, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) listed five fish species located in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.  The five fish species include the Cumberland darter (Etheostoma susanae), rush darter (Etheostoma phytophilum), yellowcheek darter (Etheostoma moorei), chucky madtom (Noturus crypticus), and laural dace (Chrosomus saylori).  All five fish species were previously identified on the Service's candidate list, which ...

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The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) made a "warranted but precluded" finding (PDF) for the whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis).  This finding means that the Service has determined that the whitebark pine should be listed, but that it will not currently list the species because there are other higher priority species in the queue and there is a lack of funding.  Therefore, the Service has added the whitebark pine to its candidates species list and will develop a proposed rule to list the species as priorities and funding allow. 

As we previously reported, the Natural Resources Defense ...

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

The Service ...

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In a closely watched and hotly contested challenge to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to list the Polar Bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the final listing rule at 73 Fed. Reg. 28,212 (May 15, 2008) (pdf), the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a 116-page opinion (pdf) in which it upheld both the decision to list the bear as threatened, not endangered, and the Service's interpretation of "endangered species" as a species that is "on the brink of extinction."

As previously reported here, the Center for ...

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced its determination to retain the listing of the Oregon Coast (OC) Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The agency's determination was published (pdf) in the Federal Register on June 20, 2011.  NMFS first proposed listing of the Oregon coast coho salmon in 1995 and first listed (pdf) the species in 1998.  The status of the species has been the subject of considerable controversy and a number of lawsuits.  Most recently, a 2008 ...

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Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.

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