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ESAblawg is an educational effort by Keith W. Rizzardi. Correspondence with this site does not create a lawyer-client relationship. Photos or links may be copyrighted (but used with permission, or as fair use). ESA blawg is published with a Creative Commons License.

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florida gators... never threatened!

If you ain't a Gator, you should be! Alligators (and endangered crocs) are important indicator species atop their food chains, with sensitivity to pollution and pesticides akin to humans. See ESA blawg. Gator blood could be our pharmaceutical future, too. See ESA musing.

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Follow the truth.

"This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." -- Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, December 27, 1820.

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Thanks, Kevin.

KEVIN S. PETTITT helped found this blawg. A D.C.-based IT consultant specializing in Lotus Notes & Domino, he also maintains Lotus Guru blog.

« District Court in Florida rejects Tribe's equal protection claims, upholds water management decisions as rational effort to protect Cape Sable seaside sparrows and comply with Endangered Species Act | Main| FWS designates critical habitat for Oregon wetland plant species. »

FWS may list Whitebark Pine and Giant Palouse Earthworm, but not the Amargosa toad

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75 Fed. Reg. 42033 / Vol. 75, No. 138 / Tuesday, July 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS–R6–ES–2010–0047 / MO 92210–0–0008
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90–Day Finding on a Petition to List Pinus albicaulis (Whitebark Pine) as Endangered or Threatened with Critical Habitat
ACTION: Notice of petition finding and initiation of status review.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list Pinus albicaulis (whitebark pine) as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended and to designate critical habitat. Based on our review, we find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing P. albicaulis may be warranted. Therefore, with the publication of this notice, we are initiating a review of the status of the species to determine if listing P. albicaulis is warranted. To ensure that this status review is comprehensive, we are requesting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding this species. Based on the status review, we will issue a 12–month finding on the petition, which will address whether the petitioned action is warranted, as provided in section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act. DATES: To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we request that we receive information on or before September 20, 2010.

WhitebarkPineBookUSDA.jpg
Pinus albicaulis is one of 9 North American 5-needled conifer species classified in the Pinus subsection Cembrae, or stone pines. Pinus albicaulis is considered a keystone species, and the pillar of alpine ecosystems, because it provides the first successional step in turning disturbed inhospitable sites into thriving communities by helping to stabilize soil and acts to accumulate snow and retard spring runoff, thus reducing flooding and improving water quality at lower elevations.  The petitioner, Natural Resources Defense Council, states the threats causing the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of Pinus albicaulis’ high alpine habitat include changes in fire regimes due to fire suppression; the white pine blister rust pathogen, which is an introduced disease caused by the fungus Cronartium ribicola; and mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) and climate change.  Photo from USDA, Forest Service, and its online publication by John W. Schwandt , Whitebark Pine in Peril: A Case for Restoration

KEITHINKING: The petition represents an obvious effort to meet the Endangered Species Act policy goal of protecting not only species, but also the "ecosystems on which they depoend."  See the NRDC petition to list the species, and visit the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation.  For an additional read, visit the LA Times article on the "ravaged" Whitebark Pine trees in Yellowstone.

***

75 Fed. Reg. 42059 / Vol. 75, No. 138 / Tuesday, July 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR / Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2010–0023 / MO 92210–0–0008–B2
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on a Petition To List the Giant Palouse Earthworm (Driloleirus americanus) as Threatened or Endangered
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 90–day finding on a petition to list the giant Palouse earthworm (Driloleirus americanus) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, (Act) and to designate critical habitat. Based on our review, we find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the giant Palouse earthworm as threatened or endangered may be warranted. Therefore, with the publication of this notice, we are  initiating a review of the status of the species to determine if listing the giant Palouse earthworm is warranted. To ensure that this status review is comprehensive, we are requesting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding this species. Based on the status review, we will issue a 12–month finding on the petition, which will address whether the petitioned action is warranted, as provided in section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act. DATES: To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we request that we receive information on or before September 20, 2010.

giantpalouseearthwormruler.jpg
The GPE was first described in 1897 as abundant , up to three feet long, and with burrows as deep as feet.  Recent specimens were less than one foot long.  See the Spokesman-Review.  Some consider the GPE to be an endemic species (a species native to a particular region), that uses grassland sites with good soil and native vegetation of the Palouse bioregion -- an area of rolling hills and deep soil in southeastern Washington and adjacent northwestern Idaho.  For more information, visit the Palouse Prairie Foundation.

EXCERPT: (Factor A) The petitioners claim that the GPE is threatened by habitat conversion, loss, and fragmentation from agriculture and urban sprawl in the Palouse region... (Factor D) Information in the petition and available in Service files indicates that there are limited regulatory mechanisms that may be protective of the GPE or its habitat...  (Factor E) The petitioners claim that the GPE is threatened by invasive nonnative earthworms. In a 3–year study of earthworms in the Palouse region of eastern Washington and Idaho, Sa´nchez-de Leo´n and Johnson-Maynard found a dominance of invasive exotic earthworms in both native and nonnative grasslands.

KEITHINKING: The earthworm listing attracted attention both in the media, and in the courts. Recently captured specimens earned blogosphere text on TheHuffington Post, airtime with NPR, and skeptical newsprint from the New York Times.   Also, earlier this year in a 9th Circuit decision, Palouse Prairie Foundation v. Salazar, No. 09-35294 (9th Cir., 2010), the appellate court upheld a prior USFWS determination NOT to list the species.  Reading between the lines of that decision, and the Ninth Circuit's emphasis that it was supporting the FWS on its review of the petition at the time, I read the 9th Circuit's opinion to hint at the potential for a new petition to follow.  And indeed, when the new petition arrived, and exactly as my prior ESA blawg contemplated, the Obama Administration reached a different conclusion than the Bush Administration did on the adequacy of the petition.  However, as FWS emphasized: "The July 1, 2009, petition was accompanied by a letter from Samuel W. James, an earthworm taxonomist, and additional information about GPE and threats to the species that was not available to the Service during our evaluation of the August 30, 2006."  

Interested in the Amargosa Toad?  ...  
75 Fed. Reg. 42040 Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 138 / Tuesday, July 20, 2010 / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR / Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / FWS–R8–ES–2009–0047 / 92210–1111–0000 B2
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding on a Petition to List the Amargosa Toad as Threatened or Endangered
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of 12–month petition finding.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 12–month finding on a petition to list the Amargosa toad (Anaxyrus nelsoni) as threatened or endangered and to designate critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. After review of all available scientific and commercial information, we find that listing the Amargosa toad is not warranted at this time. However, we ask the public to submit to us any new information that becomes available concerning the threats to the Amargosa toad or its habitat at any time. DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on July 20, 2010.

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Amargosa toads are endemic to the Amargosa River drainage in southwestern Nevada.  The Amargosa toad is a member of the family Bufonidae, which includes North American true toads. In a typical year, tens or hundreds of thousands of Amargosa toad tadpoles are produced within the Amargosa River. The 2009 population estimate for this group was 14 percent lower than the 12–year average. This lower population estimate for the Amargosa River may be the result of low detectability of Amargosa toads due to dense vegetation, no substantial habitat improvements during the last few years, and predation from bullfrogs and crayfish.  According to FWS, however, the current range of the Amargosa toad is approximately the same, and possibly larger, than its historical range as a result of conservation efforts accomplished by the various entities working to ensure long-term conservation of the Amargosa toad.  Photo by M. Burroughs from USFWS Information Page, alternative perspectives available from Center for Biological Diversity.