U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Again Finds Listing of Joshua Trees Not Warranted
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Again Finds Listing of Joshua Trees Not Warranted

On March 9, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued its 12-month finding that listing Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia and Y. jaegeriana) as endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is not warranted. The 12-month finding was made to comply with a September 20, 2021 court-ordered remand of the Service’s previous “not warranted” finding in August 2019.

In September 2015, WildEarth Guardians submitted a petition to list the Joshua trees as threatened and, if applicable, designate critical habitat for the species. The Service issued its 90-day finding in September 2016 that concluded the petition presented substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted. However, on August 15, 2019, the Service published its original 12-month finding, concluding that listing the Joshua trees was not warranted.

In response to the Service’s original 12-month finding, WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit challenging the Service’s determination. As we previously reported, on September 20, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California vacated and remanded that decision back to the Service, holding that the Service’s determination was not based on the data it purportedly relied upon.

The Service’s reassessment of its August 2019 12-month finding found that, while there are threats that are currently impacting the species such as habitat loss and degradation, increased risk of wildfire, seed predation and herbivory, invasive grasses, and climate change, the threats did not impact the species such that they are in danger of extinction throughout all of their range. Further, the Service found that existing regulatory mechanisms currently exist to provide some protection for the Joshua trees and their habitat. Given the best available data, the Service concluded that the species do not meet the definition of endangered or threatened species under the ESA, and therefore that listing of the Joshua trees is not warranted at this time.

  • David J. Miller

    David Miller assists clients on a variety of complex land use and environment related matters, including matters dealing with the National Environmental Policy Act, Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, and the ...

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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