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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
Linear infrastructure projects, including oil and gas pipelines, electric transmission lines and transportation, have faced a number of regulatory challenges over the past year, starting with last summer’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) amendments. Some of these challenges stem from changes in regulatory schemes or adverse court holdings, while others stem from uncertainty of pending ESA listing decisions and other actions.
In our recent webinar concerning Adapting Linear Infrastructure Projects to Changing Regulatory Frameworks, we discussed the path for energy providers to move forward and reduce the risk that projects may be delayed or scrapped down the road. One of the topics we covered was the 2019 regulatory amendments to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In the following video clip from the webinar, we review some of the revised definitions and updated language in the new version of the regulations.
If you would like to view the full webinar ...
A pair of non-profit organizations recently served a 60-day notice of intent (Notice) to file a citizen suit against Hilton Hotels, Bahia Mar Resorts, and the Suntex Marinas (collectively, the Resorts) under section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the alleged take of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) and green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) in Florida. ESA section 9 prohibits the unpermitted “take” of any endangered species, and the ESA defines “take” as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect,” or an attempt to do ...
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 ...
We recently recorded a podcast as part of the Environmental Law Institute’s (ELI) People Places Planet Podcast series “Engage the Experts.” In our recent discussion entitled “The Shifting Landscape of Renewable Energy Development,” we discuss recent changes in environmental regulations and related court decisions that are impacting project development, as well as what this shifting terrain means for the development, expansion and maintenance of renewable energy technologies. Tune in to learn about what recent regulatory and judicial developments mean for ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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) ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
Paul Weiland was interviewed on Air Talk radio (an NPR affiliate based in Southern California) regarding the California Fish and Game Commission’s recent decision to list four native bees as candidates to become endangered species.
Paul discussed the negative repercussions such an action could have for the agricultural community in California—such as disrupting planting and harvest cycles, and whether classifying bees as fish (for the purpose of an ESA listing) is permissible under current California law ...
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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