The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed listing the northwestern pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata) and the southwestern pond turtle (Actinemys pallida) as threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), with a final listing decision likely to occur next year. Listing the turtles would affect large swaths of California, Oregon, Washington, and parts of Nevada — the northwestern pond currently inhabits portions of Washington, Oregon, Nevada, as well as northern and central California, and the southwestern pond turtle is found in central and southern California from northern Monterey County into Baja California, Mexico. The turtles rely on aquatic habitats such as streams, ponds, and adjacent uplands, and they are found from cool coastal regions to the Mojave River watershed.Continue Reading Western Pond Turtle Listing Will Impact Land and Water Managers Throughout the Western U.S.
Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released two revised compensatory policies. The Mitigation Policy and the ESA Compensatory Mitigation Policy reject the stringent goal of net conservation gain used by the FWS during the Obama administration. Instead, both policies include the goal of no net loss, which means maintaining the current status of affected resources. While the policies are nonbinding, they will guide how the FWS evaluates compensatory mitigation in the context of incidental take permitting, conservation benefit agreements for candidate species, and ESA Section 7 consultation. Both policies do not apply retroactively to completed actions, but the FWS may elect to apply the Mitigation Policy’s principles to actions under review. Both policies continue to favor advance compensatory mitigation over other mitigation options.Continue Reading Fish and Wildlife Service Revises Its Mitigation Policies
On February 8, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed regulatory changes (Proposed Rule) focused on the application and approval process for Endangered Species Act (ESA) permits issued under Section 10. Section 10 of the ESA authorizes FWS to permit take of listed species where such take is necessary for scientific purposes or the enhancement of propagation or survival of the species, or where the take is incidental to an otherwise lawful activity. Section 10 permits are used for Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances and Safe Harbor Agreements, which are voluntary landowner agreements designed to benefit candidates or listed species, respectively. Section 10 permits also have been used to allow the take of listed species incidental to private development activities through a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), which involves the project proponent committing to certain conservation activities.Continue Reading Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes New Section 10 Regulations Under the Endangered Species Act
Following its March 2022 proposal to uplist the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) to endangered status, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS or Service) finalized the proposal on November 30, 2022. On January 25, the Service announced that these new protections for the NLEB will take effect on March 31, 2023, instead of January 30, as originally proposed. In addition, the agency proposed to list the tricolored bat as endangered on September 14, 2022. FWS has also indicated that it expects to issue a proposed listing decision regarding the little brown bat this summer.Continue Reading FWS Finalizes NLEB Uplisting and Advances Tricolored Bat Listing
On September 22, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission or FERC) issued an order on rehearing (Rehearing Order), denying the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (Interior) request to include a requirement for a hydroelectric project to notify resource agencies if any activity may affect a federally listed Endangered Species Act (ESA) species and had not already been considered in the issued license (Notification Recommendation).Continue Reading FERC Denies Interior’s Requirement for Ongoing Species Notifications
On September 14, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a proposal to list the tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) as an endangered species.
Continue Reading Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to List Tricolored Bat as Endangered
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations promulgated by the Trump administration (Trump ESA Rules) were challenged by environmental groups. While that challenge was pending, the Biden administration announced that those regulations would be revised. On July 5, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California vacated the Trump ESA regulations, not on the merits of the regulations but because they are in the process of being rewritten. This decision disregards the Biden administration’s request that the regulations remain in effect to preserve consistency and order during the revision process. Instead, the pre-Trump regulations (which were issued in the mid-1980s) have been reinstated and are now in effect until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (collectively, the Services) finalize new regulations.
Continue Reading Trump ESA Rules Vacated
On March 31, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied an appeal filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other conservation groups seeking to overturn a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) decision not to protect two types of river herring, alewife, and blueback herring under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The appeal sought to have NMFS list both species as threatened. A listing of river herring would have a significant impact on hydropower projects, as dams were identified as one of the primary threats to river herring populations.
Continue Reading Conservation Group Efforts Seeking Greater Protection of River Herring Denied
On June 7, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a proposed rule titled, “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Experimental Populations.” In issuing the proposed rule, FWS re-affirms its authority to designate and introduce experimental populations of protected species into areas of habitat outside of their historical range when climate change, invasive species, or other threats have affected or will affect that range. Importantly, this proposal only applies to species managed by FWS. Species managed by NMFS are governed by separate regulations, which NMFS updated back in 2016. These changes will make the FWS regulations more similar to those of NMFS. Pursuant to NMFS’ existing regulations, experimental populations of salmon have been re-introduced in certain waterways in the Western United States. FWS’s proposal could result in similar re-introduction of experimental populations of terrestrial and freshwater species.
Continue Reading FWS Proposes to Account for Climate Change When Designating Experimental Populations
The listing status of the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been the subject of litigation since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) originally listed it as threatened in 2015. At that time, the Service also issued an ESA Section 4(d) rule that allowed incidental take resulting from development activities to occur within its range and habitat where white nose syndrome (WNS) was not present, so long as certain best management practices, such as time of year restrictions on tree removal, were followed. In 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that the Service’s 2015 listing decision did not adequately explain why the bat was not listed as endangered, and failed to address how impacts, such as habitat modification allowed under the 4(d) rule, affected the NLEB. The court remanded the 2015 rule to the Service for further consideration, but allowed the threatened listing and 4(d) rule to stay in place while the Service reconsidered the listing status for the species.
Continue Reading FWS Proposes to Uplist Northern Long-Eared Bat