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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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"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.

« ESA news: crimes, coral and Secretary Udall | Main| Violate the ESA, or NEPA? Federal Judge says agency's implementation of BiOp requires additional NEPA analysis »

FWS may list striped newt, says sage grouse listing warranted but precluded by other priorities, and rejects petition to list Southern Hickorynut mussel

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75 Fed. Reg. 13910 / Vol. 75, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 23, 2010 / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / FWS-R6-ES-2010-0018 / MO 92210-0-0008-B2
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Findings for Petitions to List the Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) as Threatened or Endangered
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of 12–month petition findings.

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce three 12–month findings on petitions to list three entities of the greater sagegrouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We find that listing the greater sage-grouse (rangewide) is warranted, but precluded by higher priority  listing actions. We will develop a proposed rule to list the greater sagegrouse as our priorities allow. We find that listing the western subspecies of the greater sage-grouse is not warranted, based on determining that the western subspecies is not a valid taxon and thus is not a listable entity under the Act. We note, however, that greater sage-grouse in the area covered by the putative western subspecies (except those in the Bi-State area (Mono Basin), which are covered by a separate finding) are encompassed by our finding that listing the species is warranted but precluded rangewide. We find that listing the Bi-State population (in California and Nevada, previously referred to as the Mono Basin area population), which meets our criteria as a distinct population segment (DPS) of the greater sage-grouse, is warranted but precluded by higher priority listing actions. We will develop a proposed rule to list the Bi-State DPS of the greater sage-grouse as our priorities allow, possibly in conjunction with a proposed rule to list the greater sage-grouse rangewide.

SageGrouseBothSexes.jpg
The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is the largest North American grouse species.  However, the validity of the subspecies designations for greater sage-grouse has been questioned, and in some cases dismissed, by several credible taxonomic authorities.  The spring breeding displays of sage-grouse place them among the most spectacular (and bizarre) birds in the world.  Photo and some caption info from Gail Patricelli, Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California.  In this announcement, the Service evaluated taxonomy, morphology, behavior and genetics, concluding that based on the best scientific and commercial data available, the Bi-State greater sage-grouse population is discrete and significant to the overall species, and therefore, is treated as a distinct population segment.  However, after a thorough listing priority evaluation, FWS concluded that listing was warranted by precluded.  

KEITHINKING: The analysis to say "warranted but precluded" took 106 pages. (Somebody in the Solicitor's Office anticipating litigation, ya think?)

***

75 Fed. Reg. 13720 / Vol. 75, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 23, 2010 / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2010-0007 / MO 92210-0-0008-B2
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on a Petition to List the Striped Newt as Threatened
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of petition finding and initiation of status review.

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 90–day finding on a petition to list the striped newt (Notophthalmus perstriatus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the striped newt 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 species 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. We will make a determination on critical habitat for this species if, and when, we initiate a listing action. DATES: To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we request that we receive information on or before May 24, 2010.  See FWS press release.

StripedNewtFWS.jpeg
Only two species of newt occur in the eastern United States.  The striped newt (Notophthalmus perstriatus) is a small salamander that reaches a total length of 2 to 4 inches. A continuous red stripe runs the length of the side of its trunk and extends onto the head and tail where it may become fragmented.  The striped newt has one of the most complex life cycles of any amphibian. Sexually mature adults migrate to breeding ponds where courtship, copulation, and egg-laying take place. Eggs hatch and develop into externally gilled larvae in the temporary pond environment. Once larvae reach a size suitable for metamorphosis, they may either undergo metamorphosis and exit the pond as immature terrestrial newts (efts), or remain in the pond and eventually mature into gilled aquatic adults (neotenes). Very little is known about the terrestrial life of the striped newt. A striped newt has survived in captivity as an aquatic adult for more than 17 years, although such a long aquatic life probably rarely occurs in nature because of the ephemeral nature of the species’ breeding ponds.The Coastal Plains Institute and Land Conservancy filed the petition requesting that FWS list the striped newt as threatened under the Act.  Photo of Striped Newt in Georgia by FWS

EXCERPT:  Data in our files supports the petitioners’ assertions that habitat destruction and degradation is a substantial threat to the striped newt in Florida...  Habitat degradation, fragmentation, and destruction have all been documented within the range of the striped newt and represent the primary threats to the species (Factor A). Since striped newts require wetland breeding habitat, dispersal habitat, and adult upland habitat, the loss of any one of these three habitat types would disrupt the life cycle of the species and ultimately cause the extinction of a striped newt population. Diseases have been documented in declining salamander populations and have caused mortality in a population of the eastern newt, which is in the same genus as the striped newt (Factor C). It is likely that diseases are, or have been, present in striped newt populations, but due to the rarity of this species the diseases have not been detected. Habitat loss may make striped newts more susceptible to disease outbreaks and potential population extinction. There are no existing regulatory mechanisms that protect the striped newt from destruction of its upland forested habitat on private land or that adequately protect their wetland breeding habitat (Factor D). The lack of regulatory mechanisms to protect against the primary threat of habitat loss increases the extinction probability of the striped newt. Other natural or manmade factors, such as the threats of natural succession, prolonged drought, extreme population fluctuations, and local extinctions, increase the probability of extinction of this species (Factor E). Because we have found that the petition presents substantial information indicating that listing the striped newt may be warranted, we are initiating a status review to determine whether listing the striped newt under the Act is warranted.

***

75 Fed. Reg. 13717 / Vol. 75, No. 55 / Tuesday, March 23, 2010 / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2010-0010 / MO 92210-0-0008-B2
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on a Petition to List the Southern Hickorynut Mussel (Obovaria jacksoniana) as Endangered or Threatened
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding.

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a 90–day finding on a petition to list the southern hickorynut mussel (Obovaria jacksoniana) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. Based on our review, we find that the petition does not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the southern hickorynut mussel may be warranted. Therefore, we will not be initiating a further status review in response to this petition. However, we ask the public to submit to us any new information that becomes available concerning the status of, or threats to, the southern hickorynut mussel or its habitat at any time. DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on March 23, 2010.

SouthernHickorynutMussel.jpeg
The southern hickorynut is a medium-sized mussel growing to 55 millimeters (2 inches) in length. The shell is moderately thick, smooth, and oval to subtriangular in shape; and shell color is brown to black, sometimes with dark green rays. The southern hickorynut is found in small streams to large rivers in stable sand and gravel substrates, and in slow to moderate currents, in streams of the Gulf Coastal plain from the Mobile River Basin west to the Neches River in Eastern Texas, and north into Arkansas, Oklahoma, southeastern Missouri, and western Tennessee, but a petition by WildEarth Guardians asserted that the range of the southern hickorynut is declining, especially in Louisiana, and that it has been extirpated from two sites in  Alabama. The petition also asserted that the southern hickorynut is declining at a short-term global rate of 10 to 30 percent, and is threatened by loss of habitat attributed to sedimentation, channelization, impoundment, sand and gravel mining, and chemical runoff. Image from Arkansas State University.

EXCERPT: The petition asserts that fragmentation of freshwater mussel stream habitat makes mussel species more vulnerable to droughts and floods attributed to climate change.  The petition provided no information on habitat fragmentation or changes in the frequency of droughts and floods within the range of the southern hickorynut, or on specific detrimental effects of habitat fragmentation, droughts, or floods to the hickorynut. Information in our files documents mollusk declines within small perennial streams that have lost flow as a direct result of drought.  However, most recent site records of the southern hickorynut are from medium to large perennial stream channels that are less susceptible to total loss of flow by drought. In addition, the wide distribution of the species reduces its vulnerability to extinction due to local stochastic threats. Therefore, information provided by the petition and in Service files does not indicate or document a threat to southern hickorynut mussels due to drought or floods...  We recognize that many freshwater mussel species are experiencing declines in both range and population abundances due to the generalized threats identified by the petition. However, review of the information provided in the petition and in our files indicates that this species is not declining range-wide.