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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.


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.


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.

« NOAA proposes critical habitat for black abalone, but not listing the Warsaw grouper | Main| Federal Register Announcements: Northern Sea Otter, Sacramento Splittail, Spreading Navarretia, Altamaha Spinymussel, Atlantic Sturgeon and North Atlantic Right Whale »

Pushed by litigation, FWS adopts final rule listing African penguin as endangered, but listing of Gunnison sage grouse warranted but precluded

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75 Fed. Reg. 59645 (Tuesday, September 28, 2010) / Rules and Regulations
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS–R9–IA–2008–0068; 92210–0–0010–B6 / RIN 1018–AV60
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Endangered Status for the African Penguin
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, determine endangered status for the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. This final rule  implements the Federal protections provided by the Act for this species. DATES: This rule becomes effective October 29, 2010.  See also FWS press release.  

BACKGROUND: On November 29, 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to list 12 penguin species under the Act. On December 3, 2007, the Service received a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue from CBD. On February 27, 2008, CBD filed a complaint against the Department of the Interior for failure to make a 12-month finding (status determination) on the petition.  On September 8, 2008, the Service entered into a settlement agreement with CBD.  On December 18, 2008, the Service published in the Federal Register a warranted 12-month finding and rule proposing to list the African penguin as an endangered species under the Act 73 Fed. Reg. 77332.  On March 9, 2010, CBD filed a complaint against the Service for failure to issue a final listing determination for seven penguin species, including African penguin, within 12 months of the proposals to list the species.

KEITHINKING: The Center for Biological Diversity got results with its litigation-oriented approach. See CBD Press Release. In late 2006, CBD files a petition to list, among other species,the African Penguin.    One year later, nearly to the day, CBD files its 60-day notice of intent to sue. Two months later, CBD files its lawsuit.  Perhaps FWS would have made its decision soon enough, but certainly the timing suggests that the lawsuit worked.  6 months later, FWS signed a settlement agreement, and after 3 more months, FWS proposed to list the African Penguin.  When the process slowed again, CBD marched right back into Court, suing for the unreasonable delay of waiting 15 months for a final decision that the Endangered Species Act requires to be made in 12 months.  This announcement is (in part) the result.  See also, prior ESAblawg.

African penguin population declines are largely attributed to food shortages, resulting from large catches of fish by commercial purse-seine fisheries, and environmental fluctuations. A decrease in foraging effort at the St Croix Island colony following the establishment of a 20 km no-take zone provides some support for this theory. An eastward shift in sardine and anchovy populations is also blamed, with the biomass of these species near the largest breeding islands west of Cape Town falling sharply since 200212. The abundance of these prey species is known to influence breeding success, which may often be too low to maintain population equilibrium.  Caption info from BirdLife International. Photo of hundreds of African penguins on rocks at St. Croix Island by Norbert Klages from Avian Demography Unit, Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town.

EXCERPT: We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the threats faced by this species. The African penguin is in serious decline throughout all of its range, and the decline is currently accelerating. This decline is due to threats of a high magnitude — (1) The immediate impacts of a reduced carrying capacity for the African penguin throughout its range due to food base declines and competition for food with Cape fur seals (severely exacerbated by rapid ongoing ecosystem changes in the marine environment at the northern end of the penguin’s distribution and by major shifts of prey resources to outside of the accessible foraging range of breeding penguins at the southern end of distribution); (2) the continued threats to African penguins on land throughout their range from habitat modification and destruction, facilitating predation; and (3) the immediate and ongoing threat of oil spills and oil pollution to the African penguin. The severity of these threats to the African penguin within its breeding and foraging range puts the species in danger of extinction. Therefore, we find that the African penguin is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range.

OTHER LINKS: Scientific American, “March of the Penguins, Onto the Endangered Species List.”  and UNEP and The Daily Green on penguins and global warming.  But for discussion of recent population growth, see also, Greenfudge and Discovery News, "Endangered African Penguins Rebound in No-Fishing Zone"


75 Fed. Reg. 59804 (Tuesday, September 28, 2010) / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / DOCKET NO. FWS-R6-ES-2009-0080/ O 92210-0-0008
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination for the Gunnison Sage-grouse as a Threatened or Endangered Species
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce our 12–month finding on whether to list the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). After reviewing the best available scientific and commercial information, we find that the species is warranted for listing. Currently, however, listing the Gunnison sage-grouse is precluded by higher priority actions to amend the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Upon publication of this 12-month finding, we will add the Gunnison sage-grouse to our candidate species list. We will develop a proposed rule to list this species as our priorities allow. We will make any determination on critical habitat during development of the proposed listing rule. DATES: The determination announced in this document was made on September 28, 2010.

Gunnison sage-grouse currently occur in seven widely scattered and isolated populations in Colorado and Utah.  However, because of the loss and fragmentation of habitat within its range, no expansive, contiguous areas that could be considered strongholds (areas of occupied range where the risk of extirpation appears low) are evident for Gunnison sage-grouse. Scientists do not know the minimum amount of sagebrush habitat needed by Gunnison sage-grouse to ensure long-term persistence. Clearly however, landscapes containing large and contiguous sagebrush patches and sagebrush patches in close proximity increase the likelihood of sage-grouse persistence. Photo from Bureau of Land Management.

EXCERPT: The existing and continuing loss, degradation, and fragmentation of sagegrouse habitat; extremely small population sizes; occupancy of extremely small, isolated, and fragmented sagebrush areas; increased susceptibility to predation; lack of interconnectivity; low genetic diversity; and the potential for catastrophic stochastic (random) events, combined with the inadequacy of existing regulations to manage habitat loss (either direct or functional), endanger all Gunnison sage-grouse populations and the species as a whole.

EXCERPT: We will continue to monitor the threats to the Gunnison sage-grouse, and the species’ status on an annual basis, and should the magnitude or the imminence of the threats change, we will re-visit our assessment of LPN. Currently, work on a proposed listing determination for the Gunnison sagegrouse  is precluded by work on higher priority listing actions with absolute statutory, court-ordered, or court approved deadlines and final listing determinations for those species that were proposed for listing with funds from FY 2009. Additionally, remaining listing funding from FY 2010 has been directed to work on listing determinations for species at significantly greater risk of extinction than the Gunnison sage-grouse faces. Because of the large number of highpriority species, we further ranked the candidate species with an LPN of 2. The resulting ‘‘Top 40’’ list of candidate species have the highest priority to receive funding to work on a proposed listing determination...