Posts tagged U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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 ...

Kangaroo Rat: From Endangered to Threatened

On August 19, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule that would remove the Stephens’ kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stephensi) from the federal list of Endangered Species. The proposed rule would, instead, list the kangaroo rat as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and would provide a rule under ESA section 4(d) to provide for conservation of the kangaroo rat.

The Stephens’ kangaroo rat was originally listed as an endangered species in 1988. It is a small, nocturnal mammal, with external cheek pouches, large hind legs, a long tail ...

California Fish and Game Commission Defers Decision on Joshua Tree

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 ... 

Federal Wildlife Agencies Propose Rule to Define Habitat

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 ...

Trump Executive Order: Environmental Streamlining or Political Quagmire?

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 ...

Fishers Get ESA Protection in Southern Sierra

On May 15, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service") published a final rule in the Federal Register announcing the agency’s determination to list the Southern Sierra Nevada (SSN) Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of fisher (Pekania pennanti) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The fisher is a small, carnivorous mammal in the mustelid (commonly referred to as weasel) family. The SSN DPS of fisher, which occurs in California, was recently determined by the Service to be a separate subpopulation of the West Coast DPS.

The Service first proposed to list ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

USFWS Proposes to Codify Trump Administration Position on MBTA

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released a pre-publication version of its long-awaited update to regulations governing Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) implementation (Proposed Regulations). Significantly, the Proposed Regulations explicitly state that unintentional, non-purposeful, or “incidental” take of migratory birds is not prohibited by the MBTA’s “take” prohibition. USFWS has also published a pre-publication version of a notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an environmental impact statement pursuant to the National Environmental ...

Posted in Listing, Litigation
Court Remands Northern Long-eared Bat Listing Back to USFWS

Yesterday, in Center for Biological Diversity v. Everson​, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia overturned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) decision to list the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentriodnalis) as threatened rather than endangered, and remanded the decision back to the agency.  The threatened listing will remain intact while USFWS undertakes a new listing decision.

In addition to remanding the threatened listing decision back to the USFWS, the court also vacated a portion of the USFWS’s and National Marine ...

Today, the U.S. Senate confirmed Aurelia Skipwith as the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) by a vote of 52-39.  Ms. Skipwith’s confirmation fell mostly along party lines, with three Democratic Senators joining Republicans in approving the nomination.  With Ms. Skipwith’s confirmation, the USFWS will have its first Director of the USFWS since the beginning of the Trump Administration.

Prior to her confirmation, Ms. Skipwith served as the Interior Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. She is a co-founder and former general ...

FWS Proposes Removing Interior Least Tern from ESA Protection

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).

The interior least tern, the smallest of the tern species in North America, was first observed in 1804 by explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The fish-mongering bird currently nests adjacent to major U.S. rivers within the Lower Mississippi Valley and the Great Plains region across ...

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 ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is systematically revising species recovery plans issued under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  On August 6, 2019, USFWS published three notices of availability announcing public comment periods on its draft revisions to 70 recovery plans covering 121 species across the United States ...

Settlement Eliminates 1,500 Acres of Designated Dusky Gopher Frog Critical Habitat

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 May 3, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule to downlist the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) from endangered to threatened. The Service also proposed a rule under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to allow many routine activities to occur within the range of the species, even if they result in incidental take of the species, in light of the fact that such activities do not affect the overall viability of the American burying beetle.

The American burying beetle is a nocturnal species that has a one year ...

Over the last few weeks, besides proposing to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Species (which we covered here), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has made a few other moves related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

On Monday, April 8, 2019, the Service published a final rule, removing one species from the List of Endangered and Threatened Species, adding 16 separate species to the list, and updating the existing entries for 17 more species.  Specifically, the Service added the following species to the ESA List: Gulf grouper ...

On January 31, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced plans to amend up to 182 Endangered Species Act (ESA) recovery plans, which potentially cover over 305 animal and plant species, over the next year. These amendments will revise each recovery plan to include quantitative recovery criteria as part of the Department of the Interior’s Agency Priority Performance Goals. USFWS kicked off this 12-month push by releasing a notice of availability of 26 draft recovery plan amendments ...

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.

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in California Sea Urchin Commission v. Combs (Combs), Docket No. 17-1636, an appeal from a Ninth Circuit decision regarding endangered Southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) and deference to the decisions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service).  As we reported here last month, the case was seen as a potential vehicle for the Court to take up the broader issue of Chevron deference, the legal doctrine that requires courts to defer to an agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous statute so long as that interpretation is ...

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares for its upcoming October 2018 term, one petition concerning an endangered sea otter relocation program is attracting a lot of attention as a potential vehicle for the Court to consider the broader issue of Chevron deference, the legal doctrine that requires courts to defer to an agency’s reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute. The petition has also created odd bedfellows, as the Department of Justice under the Trump Administration finds itself arguing alongside several national environmental non-profit organizations that the ...

On June 8th, 2017, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3353, entitled Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation and Cooperation with Western States.  This Order initiates the assessment of both federal and state-led conservation efforts related to the greater sage-grouse and establishes a review panel to undertake the evaluation. The review panel will then recommend (potentially significant) changes to how the bird is managed. The stated purposes of the Order are to 1) enhance cooperation between DOI and the eleven western states comprising the ...

On May 18, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment decision in favor of the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and other federal officials in an action brought by an environmental organization concerning the possible impacts of a Nevada solar power facility on the federally listed desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii).  The Court rejected plaintiff’s contentions that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approvals for the construction and operation of the project ...

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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