Posts tagged Endangered.

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 ...

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 ...

On January 28, 2019, the Superior Court for San Diego County upheld the California Fish and Game Commission’s (Commission) 2015 decision to list the gray wolf (canis lupus) under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). (Cal. Cattlemen’s Assn. v. Cal. Fish & Game Com. (Super. Ct. San Diego County, 2019, No. 37-2017-00003866-CU-MC-CTL).)

CESA defines an endangered species as a native species or subspecies of bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, reptile or plant which is in serious danger of becoming extinct throughout all, or a significant portion, of its range due to one or ...

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 July 9, 2018, President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to replace retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. While much of the public discourse about Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination has focused on hot-button issues like abortion and the Second Amendment, the addition of Justice Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court could also have significant effects on a range of environmental laws and regulations, including the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

One of Judge Kavanaugh’s most well-known environmental opinions is from Otay Mesa Property, L.P. v. Interior, 646 F.3d 914 (D.C. Cir. 2011). In Otay Mesa, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) had observed four endangered San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis) in one location on a dirt road on the plaintiffs’ 143-acre property. Based on that single observation, the Service designated the plaintiffs’ property as occupied habitat for purposes of its critical habitat designation under the ESA. The D.C. Circuit held that substantial evidence did not support the Service’s designation of critical habitat for the San Diego fairy shrimp. Judge Kavanaugh explained that while the Service may protect areas outside of the geographic range occupied by an ESA-protected species as essential to the species’ conservation, it had instead asserted that this was occupied habitat for the fairy shrimp. Judge Kavanaugh found that a single observation of a species did not provide sufficient evidence that the area was occupied habitat. And while the Service was under no requirement to continue looking for the endangered shrimp, Judge Kavanaugh noted that the lack of such an obligation is not the same as an authorization to act without data to support its conclusions. 646 F.3d at 918. This opinion suggests that Judge Kavanaugh is likely to narrowly interpret the provisions of the ESA.

Similarly, Justice Kavanaugh’s position on Chevron deference may have wide ranging consequences for environmental statutes, including the ESA.

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 ...

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 ...

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 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 ...

On September 20, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed three separate species under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA").  USFWS listed the Sonoyta mud turtle (Kinosternon sonoriense) as endangered, and the 'I'iwi (Drepanis coccinea) and pearl darter (Percina aurora) as threatened species under the ESA.  Despite listing all three species, the USFWS deferred designating critical habitat for the three species.  The three listing decisions, all of which were compelled by settlements that the USFWS entered into during the Obama administration, are summarized below.

On February 27, 2017, the California Supreme Court reversed a Court of Appeal decision dismissing a petition for writ of mandate regarding the California Fish and Game Commission’s (Commission) rejection of a petition to delist the population of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) south of San Francisco under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  Central Coast Forest Assoc. v. Fish and Game Comm’n, Case No. S208181, 2017 Cal. LEXIS 1540 (Cal. Feb. 27, 2017).  The California Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal erred by failing to consider the merits of the ...

On February 10, 2016, lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans are scheduled to discuss several wildlife laws, including the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).  The Oversight Hearing is entitled The Costly Impacts of Predation and Conflicting Federal Statutes on Native and Endangered Species.  Anticipated topics for discussion include addressing the fact that conflicts between federal statutes often prevent agencies and federal officials from effectively reducing ...

On February 10, 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration ("Services") issued a final rule (pdf) to include captive killer whales in the Southern Resident killer whale distinct population segment (DPS) of killer whales (Orcinus orca). The DPS has been listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 2005, but the listing excluded whales held in captivity. In January 2013, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals petitioned the Services to remove the exclusion and extend the protections of ...

On December 9, 2014, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Secretary of Commerce published a revised proposed rule designating critical habitat for the Arctic Ringed Seal.  The previous proposed rule was published here (and reported on this blog here) on December 3rd.  Citing a clerical error, NMFS withdrew the December 3rd rule, claiming it "contained numerous errors."  The rule published today is intended to replace the prior critical habitat designation, and the comment period will reopen effective today and will remain open until March 9, 2015 ...

On December 5, 2014 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) released its Fiscal Year 2014 Threatened and Endangered Species Candidate list.  Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), when the USFWS either receives a petition from a third party to list a species as threatened or endangered, or when the USFWS decides of its own accord to evaluate a species for listing, it is required to issue a 90 day finding on the potential listing, and then a 12-month finding, followed by a determination on the species' status.  Forty species received final listing decisions this year.  USFWS may delay a ...

Posted in Listing

On October 24, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a final rule listing the Dakota skipper (Hesperia dacotae) as a threatened species and the Poweshiek skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek) as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.  The Dakota skipper is found in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Manitoba and Sasketchewan, and that the Poweshiek skipperling is found in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Manitoba.  The Service determined that the Dakota skipper is likely to become endangered throughout all of its range within the ...

Posted in Listing

On October 6, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a news release (pdf) announcing its proposal to list the West Coast Distinct Population Segment (West Coast DPS) of fisher (Pekanian pennanti) as threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), in part due to significant threats from illegal marijuana farming. 

The fisher belongs to a family of mammals that includes weasels and otters, and grows to about the size of a large house cat.  The Federal Register notice (pdf) regarding the proposed listing, which was published yesterday, states that the ...

Posted in Congress

This morning, the House Committee on Natural Resources is holding a legislative hearing on six proposed amendments to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The live video webcast of the hearing can be accessed here.  The six proposed amendments are:

H.R. 1314 - establishing a procedure for approval of certain types of settlements

H.R. 1927 - providing congressional direction for implementation of the ESA as it relates to operation of the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project and for water relief in the State of California

H.R. 4256 - requiring the wildlife agencies ...

Posted in Listing

On August 4, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced its decision to list two small Texas minnows -- the sharpnose shiner (Notropis oxyrhynchus) and smalleye shiner (N. buccula) -- as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The two Texas minnows, which have been candidates species since 2002, measure less than 2 inches and have a life span of less than three years.  According to the announcement issued by the Service, the "two primary  factors affecting the status of the shiners are river fragmentation and alterations of the natural stream flow regime ...

Posted in Court Decisions

On June 23, 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia affirmed the strict application of the Endangered Species Act's (ESA) pre-litigation notice requirements, dismissing a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) failed to timely act on a number of listing petitions because the violations stated in the pre-litigation notice and complaint did not occur until after the litigation was filed.  Friends of Animals v. Ashe, No. 13-1607 (D.D.C. June 23, 2014).  

Under the ESA, after a listing petition has been filed, the Service is obligated ...

Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved the Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act (H.R. 2919), which would amend existing law to require the Executive Branch to provide an annual report to Congress on the amount of fees and other expenses awarded to prevailing parties, other than the United States, in certain administrative proceedings and civil suits, including certain lawsuits under the Endangered Species Act and other environmental statutes.  The Act would require the report to account for all payments of fees and other expenses awarded made pursuant to a ...

Posted in Listing

 The Los Angeles Times reports that the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) unanimously voted to postpone a decision on whether to list the gray wolf (Canis lupus) under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). As we previously reported, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended in February 2014 that the Commission not list the gray wolf under CESA, determining that the scientific evidence does not warrant listing the species at this time. The issue arose in 2011 when a single wolf, OR-7, was spotted in California for the first time.

The five-member ...

Posted in Conservation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has announced the availability of a revised recovery plan for the pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus), a species that is found in the Missouri and Mississippi River basins, has been described as having a "unique dinosaur-like appearance," and has been listed as endangered since 1990.  As summarized by the Service, the revised recovery plan updates the "current understanding of the species life history requirements, identifies probable threats that were not originally recognized, includes revised recovery ...

Posted in Listing

Getting back into the swing of things, earlier today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii) does not warrant listing at this time, and commented on its proposal to list the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) (pdf) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  The notice issued by the Service states that the "primary threat to the northern long-eared bat is a disease, white-nose syndrome, which has killed an estimated 5.5 million cave-hibernating bats in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and Canada."  ...

As reported earlier today by Emily Yehle of Greenwire, if the U.S. Government fails to avoid a government shutdown before tomorrow, a number of federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of the Interior are planning to "pull the plug on their online presence."  (E&ENewsPM, Sept. 30, 2013).  You may ask, what other impacts will there be as a result of the impending government shutdown?  While, according to the Department of the Interior's website (pdf), as a general matter "Service employees will not continue to work" on court ordered ...

Posted in Congress

Yesterday, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a second hearing regarding implementation and impacts of the Endangered Species Act.  Today's hearing was titled: Transparency and Sound Science Gone Extinct?: The impacts of the Obama Administration's Closed-Door Settlement on Endangered Species and People.  In a summary description issued before the hearing, the Committee stated that it anticipated the hearing would "highlight how the lack of data transparency is leading to increased numbers of species being listed and critical habitat being ...

Posted in Court Decisions

On March 29, 2013, after more than 11 years of litigation, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that a defendant, as the prevailing party, was entitled to attorneys' fees under the Endangered Species Act's fee shifting provision.  See Animal Welfare Institute v. Feld Entertainment, Inc., No. 03-2006 (D.D.C. Mar. 29, 2013) (pdf).

The fee provision states, in relevant part, "in issuing any final order in any suit brought" under the citizen suit provision of the Endangered Species Act, a court, in its discretion, "may award costs of ...

Posted in Listing

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 ...

Posted in Court Decisions

On January 10, 2013, the United States District Court for the District of Alaska issued an order (pdf) vacating the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's critical habitat designation for the polar bear after concluding that the Service failed to comply with substantive and procedural requirements in the Endangered Species Act.  Specifically, the district court found that the administrative record produced by the Service failed to contain evidence of the essential "physical or biological features" necessary to justify the designation of two large areas as critical ...

On January 4, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held (pdf) that Safari Club International (Safari Club) lacked standing to intervene as a matter of right in the litigation that resulted in two stipulated judgments establishing procedures and deadlines for reviewing listing and critical habitat determinations for 251 candidate species, thereby affirming the decision of the district court.  (A short discussion of the history leading up to these settlements can be found here and here.) 

The Safari Club asserted that it had a procedural ...

Posted in Litigation

On December 17, 2012, the National Association of Home Builders, the Olympia Master Builders, the Home Builder Association of Greater Austin, and the Texas Salamander Coalition, Inc., filed a lawsuit (pdf) against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ken Salazar, in his official capacity, alleging that when the Service entered into stipulated settlements with WildEarth Guardians (pdf) and the Center for Biological Diversity (pdf) establishing procedures and deadlines for reviewing the listing and critical habitat determinations for 251 candidate species ...

On July 27, 2011, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings announced that the Committee will "move forward" in the fall to examine the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in an effort to reauthorize the law.  Chairman Hastings issued his statement shortly after the House passed an amendment offered by Rep. Norm Dicks to the FY 2012 Interior Appropriations Bill that restored funding to the ESA's listing program.  The original spending bill would have eliminated funding for the processing of petitions, preparation of 12-month findings, and issuance of final rules ...

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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