Agencies Rescind Trump-Era Definition of “Habitat” Under Endangered Species Act

On Friday, June 24, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service issued a final rule rescinding the agencies’ regulatory definition of “habitat” previously promulgated by the Trump administration on December 16, 2020, for use in determining a “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act (Act). Under this prior definition, “habitat” included “the abiotic and biotic setting that currently or periodically contains the resources and conditions necessary to support one or more life processes of a species.” (more…)

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Propose to List Northern Long-Eared Bat as Endangered Species

On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposed to reclassify the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), a bat species found in 38 U.S. states or territories, as an endangered species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (Act). The Service’s proposed reclassification is a direct response to a federal judge’s court order requiring the Service to revisit its previous listing decision and account for the impact of white nose syndrome (WNS), a disease-causing fungal infection that ultimately results in mortality. The heightened listing for the species is very likely to affect ongoing and future development over a large geographic region, given the species’ range outside of areas affected by WNS. (more…)

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Ninth Circuit Approves U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Barred Owls vs. Spotted Owls Experiment

On March 4, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in Friends of Animals v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and FWS’ experimental plan that authorizes certain individuals to kill barred owls, a species of owls that has encroached on the northern spotted owls’ habitat. Primarily in the Pacific Northwest, the northern spotted owl has been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since June 26, 1990. 55 Fed. Reg. 26114. On December 15, 2020, FWS released its 12-month finding for the northern spotted owl that precluded reclassifying the species from threatened to endangered. (more…)

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DC Circuit Orders EPA to Reconsider 2019 Renewable Fuel Standard Effects on Endangered Species

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled on July 16 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must reconsider its 2019 targets under the renewable fuel standard (RFS) related to its potential effects on endangered species. In Growth Energy v. EPA, No. 19-01023 (D.C. Cir.), three groups of petitioners had challenged the rule: renewable energy producers, parties regulated by the RFS requirements, and a group of environmental organizations. (more…)

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Framework for Endangered Species Act Critical Habitat Exclusion Analysis

On September 8, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a proposal under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) addressing how FWS will conduct discretionary analyses to determine whether to exclude land that otherwise would be constrained from use due to a critical habitat designation. (more…)

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service Propose Definition for “Habitat”

On August 5, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (collectively the Services) published a proposed rule to define “habitat” as that term is used in the context of critical habitat designations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. One of the tools under the ESA to conserve listed species is the designation of critical habitat to identify areas that are essential to a species’ recovery. (more…)

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