On September 27, 2016, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, “the Services”) published a final rule finalizing changes to the regulations concerning listing and de-listing petitions under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). The revisions clarify and enhance the procedures by which the Services evaluate these petitions under section 4(b)(3) of the ESA.  The Services initially proposed revisions to the petitions process in May 2015, but narrowed the revisions in a re-proposal issued in April 2016.  The rule becomes effective October 27, 2016.

Specific revisions include a measure to improve engagement with state wildlife agencies. Petitioners will now be required to notify each state wildlife agency in which the species occur at least 30 days before submitting the petition to the Services.  This notification will allow states to provide the Agencies with relevant information to inform their review of the petitioned species.

Another significant change is a limitation on the number of species per petition. Petitions will now be limited to a single species per petition, although petitions may still address any members of a single species as defined in the ESA.  The Services also eliminated the regulation requiring the Agencies to provide written acknowledgement within 30 days confirming that a petition complies with applicable regulations.

The Services assert that the revised regulations are intended to improve the content and specificity of petitions to enhance their effectiveness in support of species conservation. While these revisions fall short of the changes the Services had previously proposed in May 2015, they will nonetheless improve the quality of petitions, which will facilitate the Services’ ability to use limited resources more efficiently.

A copy of the final rule as published in the Federal Register is available here.  For questions regarding the final rule or regarding the Endangered Species Act more generally, please contact Andrea Wortzel, Sean Sullivan, Angela Levin, or Andy Flavin.