Endangered Species Act Spring Round Up

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Over the last few weeks, besides proposing to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Species (which we covered here), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) has made a few other moves related to the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).

On Monday, April 8, 2019, the Service published a final rule, removing one species from the List of Endangered and Threatened Species, adding 16 separate species to the list, and updating the existing entries for 17 more species.  Specifically, the Service added the following species to the ESA List: Gulf grouper (Mycteroperca jordani), Island grouper (Mycteroperca fusca), Common guitarfish (Rhinobatos rhinobatos), Blackchin guitarfish (Rhinobatos cernciculus), Daggernose shark (Isogomphodon oxyrhynchus), Brazilian guitarfish (Rhinobatos horkelii), Striped smoothhound shark  (Mustelus fasciatus), Maui dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui), Hector’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori hectori), Giant manta ray (Manta birostris), Oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), Taiwanese humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis taiwanensis), narrownose smoothhound shark (Mustelus schmitti), spiny angelshark (Squatina guggenheim), Argentine angelshark (Squantina argentina), and Chambered nautilius (Natilus pompilius).  The Service also removed the Puget Sound-Georgia Basin Distinct Population Segment (“DPS”) of Canary rockfish (Sebastes pinniger) from the list, and updated the list entries to add critical habitat citations for the following species: Gulf of Maine DPS of Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus), New York Bight DPS of Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus), South Atlantic DPS of Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus), Cheasapeake Bay DPS of Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus), Carolina DPS of Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus), Main Hawaiian Islands Insular DPS of False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens), Saimaa subspecies of rigned seal (Phoca hispida saimensis).  Finally, the Service made minor corrections to the list entries for the following species: Three foreign coral species (Cantharellus naumeae; Sierastea glynni; Tubastraea floreana), Dusky sea snake (Aipysurus fuscus), Banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kaudemi), the Tansanian DPS of African coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae), Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus), and three angelshark species (Squatina aculeata; Squatina oculata; Squatina squatina).  The nonsubstantive corrections consisted of adding the citation to the final listing rule for each of the 10 species.

On Friday, April 5, 2019, the Service published a proposed rule, proposing to create a nonessential experimental population of California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) in the Pacific Northwest.  While the condor has been listed as endangered under the ESA since the ESA’s inception in 1973, this would establish a new population of condor in the Pacific Northwest, which is part of the condor’s historic range.  This experimental population would be subject to some amount of allowable take, because it is considered “nonessential” to the overall survival of the species.  The Service is accepting comments on this proposal until June 4, 2019.

On Thursday, April 4, 2019, the Service published a proposed rule finding that the petitioned action to list the eastern hellbender salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) as endangered or threatened was not warranted.  The proposed rule, however, found that a DPS of the species in Missouri should be listed as endangered under the ESA.  While the Ozark hellbender subspecies (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi) is already listed as endangered, the population is Missouri is a distinct subspecies.  The Service is accepting comments on its proposal to list the Missouri DPS until June 3, 2019.

On Thursday, April 4, 2019, the Service also published a notice of its finding that a petition to list eight species under the ESA was not warranted.  The species at issue were the Arkansas mudalia (Leptoxis arkansensis), Ashy darter (Etheostoma cinereum), Barrens darter (Etheostoma forbesi), Chihuahua scurfpea (Pediomelum pentaphyllum), Coldwater crayfish (Orconectes eupunctus), Eleven Point River crayfish (Faxonius wagneri), Spring River crayfish (Faxonius roberti), and Red-crowned parrot (Amazona viridignenalis).  The Service requested that any new or additional data on these species be submitted to the relevant regional offices.

Finally, on Friday, April 12, 2019, the Service published a proposed rule regarding the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus).  Specifically, Friday’s proposed rule reopens the comment period regarding the Service’s 2013 proposal to list the bi-state DPS of greater sage grouse as threatened under the ESA and to designate critical habitat for the DPS.  The comment period will remain open for 60 days, and the Service intends to publish a final rule regarding the listing of the bi-state DPS and its critical habitat no later than October 1, 2019.  For our prior coverage on the greater sage grouse, please refer to our earlier posts here and here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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