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 ...
This morning, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that he is planning to step down at the end of March. A number of prominent elected officials from the western United States have been mentioned in the press as potential candidates for the position.
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 ...
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 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 ...
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced (pdf) that it finalized its designation of critical habitat for the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) in the Pacific Northwest. The final rule designated 9.29 million acres of federal land and 291,750 acres of state land as critical habitat for the species. The final rule reduced the amount of habitat by approximately 4.3 million acres from a February 2012 proposal. The Service asserts that this designation comported with a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department of the Interior to give ...
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 ...
On June 4, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a 90-day finding (pdf) that substantial scientific or commercial information indicates that delisting the Inyo California towhee (Pipilo crissalis eremophilus) and reclassifying from endangered to threatened the arroyo toad (Anaxyrus californicus), Indian Knob mountainbalm (Eriodictyon altissimum), Lane Mountain milk-vetch (Astragalus jagerianus), Modoc sucker (Catostomus microps), and Santa Cruz cypress (Cupressus abramsiana) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) may be warranted. The Service will now conduct status reviews for these six species which result in a 12-month finding for each species determining whether the action is, in fact, warranted.
The Pacific Legal Foundation petitioned the Service requesting these actions on December 19, 2011. The Foundation's petition was based on information contained in the most recent 5-year reviews for these six species, which were completed in 2008 and 2009.
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 ...
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 ...
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that its Endangered Species Bulletin will be available exclusively in an online-only format going forward. The Bulletin will be updated bi-monthly and will include a single in-depth feature articles, additional supporting articles, and other content. The website for the Bulletin provides access to an archive that includes past editions back to 2000.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced (PDF) the availability of the 2011 Revised Recovery Plan for the Mojave Population of the Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) (PDF). The Plan calls for an adaptive management approach, something the Service says is necessary to "accommodate changing management needs" of the species. In contrast, an earlier earlier recovery plan, finalized in 1994, focused on traditional mitigation measures to achieve recovery of the threatened desert tortoise.
Key elements of the 2011 Recovery Plan include developing ...
On June 30, 2011, the U.S. Senate confirmed Dan Ashe as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ashe has held various positions with the Service over the past 15 years. His immediate predecessor was Rowan Gould, who served as Acting Director beginning in February 2010 when then-Director Sam Hamilton passed away. Though the position requires Senate confirmation, it has frequently been filled by career Service employees. The Department of the Interior announced Ashe's confirmation in a press release, available here.
On May 17, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia stayed its approval of a proposed settlement agreement (Agreement) aimed at expediting findings related to petitions to list 251 species. The Center for Biological Diversity (Center) opposed approval of the Agreement after being left out of the negotiation process.
As we previously reported, plaintiff WildEarth Guardians (Guardians) entered into the Agreement with the Secretary of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), under which the Service agreed to a six-year work plan to address ...
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that it has developed a six-year work plan that would allow the Service to systematically review and address the needs of more than 250 species currently listed as candidate species for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The work plan is part of a settlement agreement (PDF) between the Service and WildEarth Guardians (WildEarth) that will be filed in a consolidated case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
While the Candidate List was envisioned as an administrative tool that would identify species for which the Service would shortly make listing decisions, the dramatic increase of listing petitions and lawsuits has led to a backlog of species on the list. The Service has received petitions to list more than 1,230 species in the last four years – nearly as many petitions as the amount of species listed under the ESA in the previous 30 years. The work plan provides a schedule for making listing determinations for current candidates species, and it includes some species that have been petitioned for protection under the ESA.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced that it was opening a 30-day public comment period on updated information for the draft revised recovery plan for the threatened northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina). This announcement follows the completion of a new computerized modeling tool developed for assessing spotted owl habitat quality and population dynamics. It also predicts the effectiveness of different conservation measures.
The new modeling tool synthesizes more than 20 years of demographic data regarding the spotted owl ...
The United States Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) has reached an agreement with the majority of the plaintiffs, including the Defenders of Wildlife, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and eight other conservation organizations, to settle ongoing litigation over a Federal District Court’s 2010 decision (pdf) to reinstate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the Rocky Mountain gray wolf.
The proposed settlement allows the Service to temporarily return management of the recovered wolf populations in Idaho and Montana to the states, while continuing efforts to ...
On March 13, 2011, it was reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is authorized to prepare a new proposed rule and proposed critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus). This news follows a September 27, 2010 decision (PDF) by the Service that, although the Gunnison sage-grouse warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), protection would be delayed while the Service addressed the needs of other high priority species.
The Gunnison sage-grouse is a small ground bird with speckled plumage and an ornate mating ritual ...
The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced (PDF) that despite a finding (PDF) that sufficient scientific and commercial data exist to warrant protecting the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA"), an official rulemaking to propose that protection will be postponed because of the need to address other higher priority species. Instead, the Service will review the walrus’ status as a candidate species annually. The finding confirms claims made by the federal Marine Mammal Commission and a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity that the ...
On December 22, 2010, the Department of Justice filed a supplemental brief (PDF) in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia explaining the guidelines used by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in deciding if a species should be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The brief was filed in response to the court's request for a further explanation (PDF) regarding why FWS listed the polar bear as a threatened, and not an endangered, species. Environmental groups had filed suit arguing the polar bear should be listed as ...
Aiming to restore federally-listed species, whose long-term viabilities in the Florida Keys are currently threatened by predation from non-native species and human-subsidized populations of native predators, the Fish and Wildlife Service has prepared a draft Integrated Predator Management Plan/Environmental Assessment (Plan/EA) (PDF), which it made available for public comment today on its website. The Service claims that predation by the domestic cat and other exotic non-native species has impacted populations of natives species in the Florida Keys Wildlife Refuges ...
On November 2, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listed (PDF) the Georgia pigtoe mussel, the interrupted rocksnail and the rough hornsnail as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and designated 160 miles of stream and river channels as critical habitat for the three species in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.
The listing followed FWS’s determination that the species have experienced a significant curtailment in their freshwater habitats. FWS attributes the habitat loss to fragmentation and isolation of free-flowing rivers and tributaries, as well as ...
On October 18, 2010, Idaho Governor Butch Otter announced the State of Idaho would no longer manage wolves as a designated agent under the Endangered Species Act. According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game website, a January 2006 agreement between Idaho and the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the State as an agent for day-to-day wolf management for the Fish and Wildlife Service, but efforts to renew the agreement were unsuccessful. In response to the Governor's action, the Service issued a press release (pdf) indicating it would once again be the lead agency for ...
The Service released a draft Revised Recovery Plan (PDF) for the northern spotted owl dated September 8, 2010. The species, which inhabits portions of California, Oregon, and Washington, was listed as threatened in 1990. A chronology of regulatory actions taken by the Service with respect to the northern spotted owl is available here (PDF). According to a news release (PDF) issued by the Service, "[t]he draft revision is not an overhaul of the existing recovery plan but includes significant refinements based on scientific and technological advancements, especially related to ...
On June 24, 2010, the Fish & Wildlife Service issued a Notice of Violation to the City of Birmingham, Alabama for allegedly killing an estimated 11,700 endangered watercress darters, and injuring approximately 8,900 others, in a single incident in 2008. The Service is seeking $2,975,000 in civil penalties as a result of the incident.
The watercress darter is found in only five spring brooks and spring pools in Birmingham, Alabama. In September 2008, a Birmingham maintenance crew allegedly breached an earthen dam and drained a spring pool, stranding and killing thousands of ...
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the Fish and Wildlife Service's ("Service') no "adverse modification" determination despite the fact that the proposed project would destroy some critical habitat.
In Butte Environmental Council v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (PDF), environmental plaintiffs challenged the Service's biological opinion finding that a proposed business park to be located along Stillwater Creek in Redding, California would not adversely modify the critical habitat of the threatened vernal pool fairy shrimp, endangered vernal pool tadpole ...
The Fish and Wildlife Service announced the issuance of a comprehensive set of recommended guidelines (PDF) on how to minimize the impact of land-based wind turbines on wildlife and their habitat. The Service transmitted these recommendations to Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. Secretary Salazar will review the recommendations and consider them as he directs the Service to develop guidelines for wind turbines.
The guidelines are founded on a tiered approach for assessing potential impacts to wildlife and their habitats. There are five tiers, and each tier includes a set of questions to help the developer identify potential problems associated with each phase of a project. The goal of the guidelines is to provide a consistent approach to assessing impacts to wildlife and habitats, while still providing flexibility to deal with the unique circumstances of individual projects.
On April 13, 2010, the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) filed a petition (PDF) to remove the coastal California gnatcatcher, specifically, the subspecies Polioptila californica californica, from the Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of threatened species. Considerable controversy surrounded the 1993 listing and subsequent designation of critical habitat for the coastal California gnatcatcher because its range includes prime real estate and agricultural land in the southern California counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
In its petition, PLF argues, in essence, that scientific studies indicate that no such subspecies exists, i.e., there is no such thing as the coastal California gnatcatcher. PLF cites scientific studies published since the 1993 listing that undermine the original basis for the listing. The decision to list the gnatcatcher relied heavily on research published in the early 1990s indicating that the relatively small population of gnatcatchers in southern California formed a subspecies of the much larger population of California gnatcatchers that extends from Los Angeles to the southern end of Baja, Mexico. But studies based on genetic analysis and re-analysis of the original data set that led to the listing conclude that there is no biological basis for the P. c. californica taxonomic classification. If there is no such subspecies, then, according to PLF, the gnatcatcher is not threatened because the larger population inhabiting southern California and Baja, Mexico is not vulnerable to extinction in the near future.
If the Fish and Wildlife Service delists the gnatcatcher, the designation of nearly 200,000 acres of land as critical habitat will be withdrawn. Delisting, however, would not result in the removal of all regulatory protections for the gnatcatcher in southern California. Much of the coastal California gnatcatcher’s range is already subject to conservation under the terms of Habitat Conservation Plans that collectively cover millions of acres, and the gnatcatcher is also protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Accordingly, delisting may have little or no practical effect for many landowners and developers in the region.
The Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the delta smelt warrants uplisting (PDF) from "threatened" to endangered" under the Endangered Species Act. However, uplisting at this time is precluded by the need to address higher priority species. This "warranted but precluded" finding will not have any practical effect on existing protections for the delta smelt.
According to the Service, the delta smelt is native to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and subject to several threats, including predation, competition with invasive species, contaminants, and entrainment by water ...
For the third time in nine years, the Fish and Wildlife Service has revised the designation of critical habitat for the California red-legged frog. The new designation includes 1.6 million acres in 20 counties in California. 75 Fed. Reg. 12,816 (Mar. 17, 2010) (PDF). The revised designation increases the amount of critical habitat by over one million acres from the 2006 critical habitat designation (PDF). The revised designation represents a decrease of approximately 2.4 million acres from the 2001 designation (PDF). The Service revised the prior designations in response to ...
After seeking a week's delay, the Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that the greater sage grouse warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, but listing is currently precluded by higher priority species. The Service is placing the greater sage grouse on the candidate list for future action. Until then, the species would not receive any protection under the ESA.
In its finding (PDF), the Service stated there are several factors contributing to the destruction or modification of the greater sage grouse's habitat, including the increasing degradation and ...
As reported in The Daily News Online, the Fish and Wildlife Service will be holding a public meeting on Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, Washington to inform the public and address questions on its proposal to expand critical habitat (PDF) for the threatened bull trout. For more information on the proposed expansion, see the previous post Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Revision of Critical Habitat for Bull Trout.
In a notice (PDF) published February 25, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew its proposal to list the Southwestern Washington/Columbia River Distinct Population Segment ("DPS") of coastal cutthroat trout for the second time.
The Service was required to revisit the issue after the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision (PDF) ordering the Service to reconsider whether the DPS of the coastal cutthroat trout warranted listing. After considering the issue for a second time, however, the Service again determined that the ...
As discussed in Bloomberg Business Week, the oil and gas industry, ranchers and others are eagerly anticipating the Fish and Wildlife Service's decision whether to list the greater sage grouse. In January 2005, the Service made a finding (PDF) that listing the greater sage grouse was not warranted. The Western Watershed Project sued the Service in federal district in Idaho, and in December 2007, the court reversed (PDF) the Service's listing decision.
In May 2009, Western Watershed Project and the Service then stipulated (PDF) that the Service would submit a new 12-month finding on ...
Rowan Gould, the deputy director of operations, was named as acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service following the death of Sam Hamilton, who died on February, 20, 2010. Gould previously served as acting director from January 2009 until August 2009, when Hamilton was confirmed.
Gould started his career with the Fish & Wildlife Service as a research microbiologist at the Seattle National Research Center in 1976. Gould has served in many research positions as well as Regional Director of the Alaska Region, Deputy Assistant Director for Fisheries in Washington, D.C., and ...
On February 11, 2010, the Fish and Wildlife Service reported that it will not be designating critical habitat for the Florida panther. This announcement comes in response to petitions submitted to the Service by several environmental groups including the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity requesting designation of 3 million acres of land in south Florida as critical panther habitat.
The Service determined that critical habitat designation is not in the best interest of the Florida panther at this time but retained discretion to designate habitat at a later time ...
On January 13, 2010, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to revise its 2005 designation of critical habitat for the bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus), a species that has been protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since it was listed as threatened in 1999.
The proposed rule (PDF) represents a dramatic increase in critical habitat from that currently designated under the 2005 rule. The rule as revised includes approximately 22,679 miles of streams and 533,426 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Nevada, which is a 79% increase in ...
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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