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On June 5, 2017, The Texas General Land Office (TXGLO), represented by lawyers from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) regarding the status of the golden-cheeked warbler (Warbler) as an endangered species. The lawsuit states:

  • The Service has failed to designate critical habitat since the warbler’s listing more than 25 years ago,
  • The Service did not follow its own rules in the 90-Day Finding for the 2015 Petition to Delist, and
  • The Service has failed to look at the best scientific data available.

The lawsuit requests relief in the form of:

  1. The court declaring the final rule listing violated the Service’s nondiscretionary duty because they failed to designate critical habitat and that the final rule is unlawful,
  2. The court declaring the 90-Day Finding on the Petition to Delist violated the law by failing to consider the best scientific data available, and
  3. The Court declaring the final rule listing unlawful, and that the refusal to delist the warbler is unlawful because Defendants failed to comply with NEPA.

The TXGLO claims that the warbler’s listing significantly impacts the market value of certain TXGLO lands diminishing their ability to receive revenue from Texas public lands for the benefit of Texas schoolchildren.

 

2015 Petition to Delist

90-Day Finding

2017 Lawsuit

 

The Bone Cave harvestman, a blind, cave-dwelling spider found in Travis and Williamson Counties, Texas has been at the center of a heated debate since its listing in 1988.
On June 2, 2014, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) was petitioned to delist the species. An original 90-day finding was published on June 1, 2015 that the petition did not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action was warranted. On December 15, 2015, the petitioners challenged the decision in Federal District Court. Subsequent information was submitted in October 2016 by the petitioners and the petition was re-evaluated.
On May 4, 2017, the Service announced its second 90-day finding that the petition still does not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating the delisting may be warranted.
This decision ends the Service’s formal consideration of the petition, but the Service is currently conducting a five-year review of the Bone Cave harvestman as required by section 4(c)(2)(A) of the Endangered Species Act.
The Service is encouraging the public to submit any new information that becomes available concerning the status of, or threats to, the Bone Cave harvestman or its habitat for their consideration.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has published a Federal Register notice of the availability of a revised policy and new rule for the Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA). The CCAA is a voluntary conservation program which provides incentives for non-Federal property owners to develop and implement conservation plans for unlisted species. The new rule adds a definition to the term “net conservation benefit” and eliminates references to “other necessary properties.” The revised policy and accompanying rule will go into effect on January 26, 2017.

 

black_capped_vireo_male2The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has proposed to remove the black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) from the endangered species list. The Service listed the black-capped vireo as endangered in 1987, noting only 164 mating pairs. After decades of conservation efforts, experts now estimate a population of about 14,000.

 

Dr. Benjamin N. Tuggle, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director said, “Today’s announcement illustrates exactly how the ESA (the Endangered Species Act) works to protect species on the brink of extinction and to successfully recover them.”

 

The Service will take public comment (here) until February 13, 2017 and is anticipated to make a final determination by December 2017. The bird remains protected under the Endangered Species Act; however, if the bird is delisted, the Service would continue to work with partners to monitor its status for a minimum of five years.

 

 

A Brief History:

12/30/1982 – Review of Vertebrate Wildlife for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species

12/12/1986 -Proposed Endangered Status for Black-capped Vireo to be Endangered

10/06/1987 -Determination of Black-capped vireo to be Endangered Species

04/25/2000 – Notice of Availability of an Environmental Assessment foe Receipt of a Safe Harbor Application to Enhance the Propogation and Survival of the Black-Capped Vireo and the Golden-Cheeked Warbler in the Hill Country of Texas

02/02/2005 -5-Year Review of Black-capped Vireo

09/09/2013 – 90-Day Finding on a Petition to Delist or Reclassify from Endangered to Threatened Five Southwest Species

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

Posted by: In: Endangered Species 20 Oct 2016 0 comments

Texas HornshellThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released the draft Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy this morning. The draft policy is open for public comment until October 17, 2016.

The USFWS states, “The draft ESA Compensatory Mitigation Policy, if adopted, would cover permittee-responsible mitigation, conservation banking, in-lieu fee programs, and other third-party mitigation mechanisms, and would stress the need to hold all compensatory mitigation mechanisms to equivalent and effective standards.”

While it is difficult at first glance to determine what the draft policy will change, it appears that USFWS will place more emphasis on impacts to potential habitat as opposed to identifiable adverse effects to species, possibly require a no net loss standard for potential habitat destruction (similar to wetlands), and place greater emphasis on “landscape level” solutions.

Source: (USFWS)U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2016. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Status for Texas Hornshell. Federal Register, vol. 81,p. 52796

Source: (USFWS)U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2016. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Status for Texas Hornshell. Federal Register, vol. 81,p. 52796

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced yesterday that it is proposing to list the Texas Hornshell as an Endangered Species. The public comment period will be open for 60 days.

The Texas Hornshell has been on and off the candidate species lists for more than 25 years, and in 2001 the Service entered into two settlement agreements regarding the species.

Efforts are being made in Texas and New Mexico to preserve the species. In New Mexico, the state is working with the Bureau of Land Management and industry along the Black River to develop a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances. In Texas, the Nature Conservancy and state wildlife regulators are managing their lands in the Devils River watershed to reduce sediment and contaminant runoff.

aci consulting performs surveys and relocation of the Texas Hornshell and other mussel species.

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

spragues_pipit_7C2V9725On April 5, 2016 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) issued a proposed rule (FR vol. 81, p. 19527-19542) announcing a 12-moth findings petition to list the Sprague’s pipit (Anthus spragueii) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. This species was listed as a candidate species on September 15, 2010, and according to the proposed rule, the species does not warrant listing at this time. This species does not warrant listing at this time because the distribution of the species is relatively stable across its range and no concentration of stressors was found that suggest the species may be in danger of extinction in any portion of its range. A link to this proposed rule can be found here, and a link to the Sprague’s pipit USFWS species profile page can be found here.

The Sprague’s pipit inhabits native prairie grasslands and breeds exclusively in the Northern Great Plains. Its breeding grounds include areas in North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Canada. The Sprague’s pipit wintering habitat is located in areas of Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Mexico. A map of its overall range and additional information about the species is located 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.

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.