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wolverine-feature-photoThe U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced Tuesday that they are re-opening the comment period for the Proposed Rule to list the North American wolverine as threatened. This announcement comes after the District Court for the District of Montana vacated the Service’s withdrawal of their proposed rule to list the distinct population segment of wolverine (Gulo gulo luscus). The North American wolverine is known to inhabit areas of California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The Comment Period is open until November 17, 2016.

A Brief History:
61 FR 4722      Detailed Evaluation Detailed Population Segment
73 FR 12929    12-month Finding on Petition to List as Endangered or Threatened
75 FR 19591     Initiation of Status Review
75 FR 78030    12-month Finding on Petition to List as Endangered or Threatened
78 FR 7864      Proposed Listing as Threatened
78 FR 7890      Establishment of Nonessential Experimental Population
78 FR 65248   Comment Period on the Proposed Listing Re-Opened
79 FR 6874      6-month Extension of Final Determination
79 FR 47522    Withdrawal of Proposed Rule to List as Threatened
81 FR 71670    Comment Period Re-Opened

Read the Federal Register Announcement

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has officially removed the Lesser Prairie-Chicken from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. This decision comes after years of data evaluation regarding this species which is found in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.

“The storied prairie landscape of the Southwest is of tremendous economic and cultural importance. It is also a critical area for the birds, mammals, reptiles and other animals that rely on this unique habitat,” Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement. “Responding to this court ruling by removing the bird from the federal list does not mean we are walking away from efforts to conserve the lesser prairie chicken. Far from it. We are undertaking a new status review to determine whether listing is again warranted, and we will continue to work with our state partners and others on efforts to protect vital habitat and ensure this flagship of the prairies survives well into the future.”

The Lesser Prairie-Chicken was listed on April 10, 2014. The move comes after a 2015 court challenge by the oil and gas industry requested the agency remove the bird from the list. Read the Federal Register

Posted by: In: Lesser Prairie-Chicken 11 Nov 2015 0 comments

Lesser Prairie ChickenOn November 9, 2015, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) re-opened the Range-wide Oil and Gas Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) with approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). This re-opening follows the September 1, 2015 decision of the U.S. District Court to vacate the listing of the lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The CCAA is now open for new enrollments of oil and gas leases, pipelines, and transfers of properties from the WAFWA Conservation Agreement (WCA) to the CCAA. WAFWA has stated that participation in the CCAA will “result in conservation to support the vacatur and evidence to refute future appeals and listing proposals.” It is uncertain how long the CCAA will be open for new enrollments.

The legal assurances provided to participants of the WCA were derived from Section 4(d) of the ESA and are only applicable to species listed as threatened under the ESA. The CCAA’s legal assurances are based on an ESA Section 10 permit and remain applicable whether a species is listed under the ESA as threatened or endangered. The USFWS filed a motion on September 29, 2015, for reconsideration of the Federal Judge’s decision with oral arguments scheduled for November 12, 2015.

If you have questions regarding the decision or how any state- or federally-listed species may affect your project, please contact aci consulting’s WAFWA-approved LPC Technical Service providers at our Austin office.

IMG_0715-1After failing to repeal the new Clean Water Rule on Tuesday, the Senate voted (53-44) to overturn the Rule on Wednesday under the Congressional Review Act. The White House has indicated legislation blocking the Rule will likely be vetoed.

On May 27, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) published the Clean Water Rule: Definition of ‘‘Waters of the United States;’’ further defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Numerous lawsuits were brought challenging the controversial Rule by states, business, agricultural, and development groups; and on October 9, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit temporarily suspended the Rule pending judicial review. A copy of the published rule can be found here.

If you have questions regarding the new Rule or how it may affect a current or proposed project, please contact aci consulting’s Austin office.

Posted by: In: TXRAM 14 Oct 2015 0 comments

Beautiful_landscape_of_green_swamp_with_calm_watersOn October 14, 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issued a public notice announcing the availability of an updated version of the Texas Rapid Assessment Method (TXRAM). TXRAM was developed as a tool to evaluate the integrity and health of wetlands and streams. Since its initial publication in 2011, TXRAM is used within the USACE Fort Worth District to calculate impacts to jurisdictional waters and corresponding mitigation, and as a monitoring tool.

A copy of TXRAM 2.0 can be found here.

A copy of the public notice can be found here.

If you have questions regarding TXRAM or its applicability to a project, please contact aci consulting’s Austin office at (512) 347-9000.

Federal Judge Vacates Listing of Lesser Prairie-ChickenLesser Prairie Chicken

On September 1, 2015, the U.S. District Court: Western District of Texas: Midland-Odessa Division vacated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Final Rule listing the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus; LPC) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Senior United States District Judge Robert Junell granted summary judgement to the plaintiffs (Permian Basin Petroleum Association; Chaves County, New Mexico (NM); Roosevelt County, NM; Eddy County, NM; and Lea County, NM) that the, “[US]FWS failed to properly apply [Policy for Evaluation of Conservation Efforts When Making Listing Decisions] PECE to its evaluation of the [Range-wide Plan] RWP resulting in material error. This caused [US]FWS to arbitrarily and capriciously list the LPC as a threatened species.” A copy of the Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement can be found here.

If you have questions regarding the decision or how any state- or federally-listed species may affect your project, please contact aci consulting’s Austin office.

 

Posted by: In: Clean Water Rule 28 Aug 2015 0 comments

A North Dakota federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) new Clean Water Rule from taking effect. The new rule, which further defines the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA), was to take effect today, August 28, 2015. The injunction is based on lawsuits brought by 13 states arguing the rule will diminish the states’ authority over waters. In all, 29 states, along with various other groups have filed suits to block the rule.

The EPA issued a statement shortly after the ruling declaring the new Clean Water Rule to be effective in all states but the 13 that filed for the injunction: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

If you have questions regarding the new rule or how it may affect a current or proposed project, please contact aci consulting’s Austin office.

Posted by: In: Clean Water Rule 25 Aug 2015 0 comments

IMG_0715-1

New Clean Water Rule in Effect August 28, 2015

On May 27, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) published the Clean Water Rule: Definition of ‘‘Waters of the United States.’’ This rule further defines the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA), such as adjacent waters, waters considered to have a significant nexus to jurisdictional waters, and otherwise isolated waters that occur within a floodplain. This rule goes into effect on Friday, August 28, 2015. A copy of the published rule can be found here.

If you have questions regarding the new rule or how it may affect a current or proposed project, please contact aci consulting’s Austin office.

 

Posted by: In: Edwards Aquifer 27 Mar 2015 0 comments

Georgetown SalamanderIn February 2015, the City of Georgetown approved clarified Water Quality Regulations for the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone with the further intent of regional protection of the recently-listed Georgetown salamander.  The ordinance is anticipated to be an integral component of a USFWS prepared Section 4(d) Rule related to the Georgetown salamander.  The City council previously codified the water quality ordinance into the Unified Development Code in December 2014.  This newest version includes an appendix to the Unified Development Code which details the federal standards for the known occupied Georgetown salamander sites within Georgetown’s city limits and ETJ.  These federal standards have been included in previous versions of the water quality ordinance and define: 1) No-Disturbance Zone (Red Zone), 2) Minimal-Disturbance Zone (Orange Zone), 3) the adaptive management working group, and 4) requirement for Geologic Assessment to delineate red and orange zones. A copy of the ordinance can be found here.

 

 

Photo Credit: Chad Thomas, fishesoftexas.org

SMALLEYE SHINER
Photo Credit: Chad Thomas, fishesoftexas.org

On August 4, 2014 the USFWS determined endangered species status under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, for the sharpnose shiner (Notropis oxyrhynchus) and smalleye shiner (N. buccula), two fish species from Texas.

The federal register document on the final rule of the Determination of Endangered Species Status for the Sharpnose Shiner and Smalleye Shiner can be downloaded here:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-08-04/pdf/2014-17692.pdf

Critical habitat for the sharpnose shiner and smalleye shiner has been designated under the Act. USFWS has designated a single critical habitat unit divided into six subunits in Texas. These subunits occupy approximately 1,002 river kilometers, or approximately 623 miles, of the upper Brazos River basin as well as thirty meters of uplands on either side of the river channel.  The six subunits are: 1) Upper Brazos River main stem, 2) Salt Fork of the Brazos River, 3) White River, 4) Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River, 5) North Fork Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River, and 6) South Fork Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River. The sharpnose shiner and smalleye shiner currently occupy these stretches of the upper Brazos River basin.

The federal register document on the final rule of Designation of Critical Habitat for Sharpnose Shiner and Smalleye Shiner can be downloaded here:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-08-04/pdf/2014-17694.pdf

A map of the critical habitat units for the shaprnose shiner and smalleye shiner can be viewed by clicking here.