This week, I published a post on the Center for California Water Resources Policy and Management’s DeltaCurrents blog discussing the role of conceptual ecological models in implementing the federal Endangered Species Act. Conceptual ecological models are a specialized subset of conceptual models generally intended to describe the environmental factors that affect an ecological community, a species, or a population. Conceptual ecological models are useful in a variety of contexts ranging from development of research proposals and monitoring schemes, to regulatory ...
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 ...
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service") recently released a pre-publication version of its final rule to reclassify the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). The final rule will also include 4(d) rule provisions that specify when the ESA section 9 take prohibitions will apply to the beetle.
The American burying beetle, which gets its name from its tendency to burrow under vegetation or into soil during the daytime and throughout the winter hibernation season, is the largest ...
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 ...
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 ...
Nossaman’s Environmental Practice attorneys will be off to a great start in 2019 presenting at many key events around the U.S. focused on endangered species and environmental issues.
On the heels of the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) decision not to list the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) under the Endangered Species Act and the concurrent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issuance of Records of Decision on over 98 land use plans focused on sagebrush habitat, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and many other agencies announced their issuance of part one of a three-part handbook series focused on sagebrush steppe ecosystems. Several federal and state entities, including the U.S. Joint Fire Science Program and National ...
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 ...
On August 12, 2013, the National Marine Fisheries Service refused to list the alewife herring (Alosa pseudoharengus) and blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis), concluding that based on the best scientific and commercial data available, neither species warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act. The determinationn was in response to a petition submitted by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The news was not all bad for the herring, however, as the National Marine Fisheries Service also stated that it will be working with the Atlantic States Marines ...
Yesterday, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a notice of proposed rule to designate approximately 1,184 square miles of marine habitat in the Puget Sound as critical habitat for the threatened distinct population segment of yelloweye rockfish (Sebastes ruberriums), the threatened distinct population segment of canary rockfish (Sebastes pinniger), and the endangered distinct population segment of bocaccio (Sebastes paucispinus). The notice states that comments on the proposed rule are due on November 4, 2013, and requests for public hearing must be made in ...
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 2, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a final rule increasing the critical habitat designated for the southwestern willow flycatcher (pdf) (Empidonax traillii extimus). The flycatcher is a small migratory bird (approximately 6 inches long) that nests in dense riparian habitats along streams, lakesides, and other wetlands. The Service listed the flycatcher as endangered in 1995, and in 1997 issued an initial critical habitat designation. Shortly thereafter, however, the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association filed a lawsuit ...
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 ...
On November 16, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling (PDF) affirming a lower court’s decision (PDF) that two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) biological opinions (BiOp) for a proposed 1500-acre mining project in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness on the Kootenai National Forest met the legal standards set forth in the Endangered Species Act and Administrative Procedure Act. The Court upheld the BiOp’s conclusions that construction and operation of the mine would not adversely modify bull trout critical habitat or ...
On July 22, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) erred when it designated 143 acres of private property as critical habitat for the endangered San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis) based on a single observation of the shrimp on the property in 2001.
The question presented in Otay Mesa Property L.P. v. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, No. 10-5204, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 14998 (D.C. Cir. July 22, 2011) was quite narrow: whether a single confirmed sighting of the endangered fairy shrimp in a ...
As explained in a previous posting, in November 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 187,157 square miles of land in, and sea ice adjacent to, Alaska as critical habitat for polar bear.
Shortly after the final rule was published in the Federal Register, the Alaska Oil and Gas Association (AOGA) sent a sixty-day notice of intent to sue (PDF) the Service, alleging that the designation violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Making good on its notice, on March 1, 2011, AOGA filed a complaint (PDF) in federal court seeking to invalidate the designation, which the trade ...
On November 24, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a final rule (PDF) designating 187,157 square miles of on- and off-shore habitat in northern Alaska as critical habitat for two populations of polar bear listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The Service originally proposed to designate 200,541 square miles of critical habitat. However, the final designation removed land that turned out to lie beyond the U.S. territorial waters, five U.S. Air Force (USAF) radar sites, the Native communities of Barrow and Kaktovik, and all existing man-made ...
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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