U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Finds Listing of New England Cottontail Not Warranted Due to Species Recovery From Conservation Efforts

On September 15, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published (pdf) its 12-month finding on a petition to list the New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Service determined that listing the species is not warranted.

The New England cottontail is the only rabbit native to New England and the area east of the Hudson River in New York.  It was first identified as a candidate species in 2006, when the Service published a finding that listing the New England cottontail as threatened or endangered was warranted, but precluded.  The Service has conducted annual status reviews and reaffirmed the 2006 finding.

According to the Service (pdf) removal of the New England cottontail from the list of candidate species is the result of a public-private partnership between foresters, farmers, birdwatchers, biologists, hunters, and other conservationists.  Specifically, in 2008, state and Service biologists began organizing a conservation effort for the species.  That effort included the development of a range-wide, science-based conservation strategy that set forth targeted ambitious, but achievable, goals.  As a result of these conservation efforts, the species recovery is three-quarters of the way towards the goal of 13,500 New England cottontails in healthy, young forest landscapes by 2030.

In addition to the conservation strategy, voluntary restoration efforts have played a critical role in the recovery of the species.  In the past three years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has worked with owners and managers of private lands to restore more than 4,400 acres of habitat by removing trees and invasive species, planting native shrubs, and creating brush piles.

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  • 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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