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 ...

Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) Vacated on ESA Grounds

On April 15, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana issued an order that could impact energy and development projects across the United States. The court granted partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff the Northern Plains Resource Council (“NPRC”) in a case concerning challenges to the Keystone XL Pipeline.  While the case mostly focused on the permitting for this particular pipeline, the nature of the claims raised resulted in broader implications for nationwide permit (“NWP”) 12, an important nationwide permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of ...

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 ...

Water Supply & Delivery Projects Under the ESA

Recently, Lyn Clancy, Managing Associate General Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor for the Lower Colorado River Authority, and I presented on the topic of Endangered Species and Water Supply at the State Bar of Texas’ Changing Face of Water Law Conference in San Antonio. Issues of water supply and delivery continue to be a hot topic nationwide, including in Texas, and supply and delivery projects often intersect with the need to address species of plants and wildlife listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The presentation included several primary takeaways ...

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 ...

This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced its opening of 5-year status reviews for 25 southeastern species and 10 southwestern species. Among the species included in the status review are the dusky gopher frog (Lithobates sevosus), Jollyville Plateau salamander (Eurycea tonkawae), and many other species of fish, wildlife, and plants. Five-year status reviews are required under section 4(c)(2)(A) of the Endangered Species Act and serve to inform USFWS whether a given species warrants a change in listing status (e.g., de-listing or a change from threatened ...

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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