Catching Up on Federal Register announcements: delisting wolves, withdrawing plover proposals, and revising leatherback critical habitat
76 Fed. Reg. 25590 (Thursday, May 5, 2011)
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
Reissuance of Final Rule To Identify the Northern Rocky Mountain Population of Gray Wolf as a Distinct Population Segment and To Revise the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
SUMMARY: On April 15, 2011, President Obama signed the Department of Defense and Full-Year Appropriations Act, 2011. A section of that Appropriations Act directs the Secretary of the Interior to reissue within 60 days of enactment the final rule published on April 2, 2009, that identified the Northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolf (Canis lupus) as a distinct population segment (DPS) and to revise the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife by removing most of the gray wolves in the DPS. This rule complies with that directive.
KEITHINKING: See prior ESA blawg and additional coverage and commentary in New York Times, the Outdoor Wire, and theChristian Science Monitor.
76 Fed. Reg. 27756 (Thursday, May 12, 2011)
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Withdrawal of the Proposed Rule To List the Mountain Plover as Threatened
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce our decision to withdraw the proposed listing of the mountain plover (Charadrius montanus) as a threatened species under the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). After a thorough review of all available scientific and commercial information, we have determined that the species is not endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of its range. We make this determination because threats to the species as identified in the proposed rule are not as significant as earlier believed and currently available data do not indicate that the threats to the species and its habitat, as analyzed under the five listing factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act, are likely to endanger the species in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
EXCERPT: In the past, we were concerned that mountain plover life span was short compared to other plovers and that this, in combination with high breeding site fidelity, presented a threat to breeding populations. Contrary to our previous belief, the mountain plover is now considered a relatively long-lived species. Site fidelity and ability to seek out alternative sites for breeding does not appear to be a concern. Based on new information regarding life span, site fidelity, and dispersal, we no longer believe that these aspects of the mountain plover’s life history represent any threat to the species. Lastly, recent information confirms that some mountain plover are exposed to pesticides, but no evidence of impacts to individuals, local populations, or rangewide impacts to the species have been demonstrated.
The current status of the mountain plover does not suggest that future habitat changes, or the combination of climate change and habitat changes will result in significant population-level impacts in the foreseeable future. Their geographically widespread breeding and wintering locations, and ability to use a variety of habitats, contribute to their security. During breeding, they utilize short- and mixed-grass prairie, prairie dog colonies, agricultural lands, and semi-desert (Dinsmore 2003, pp. 14–17). The variety of habitats in which they successfully breed suggests that threats affecting one habitat type would not greatly increase the mountain plover’s vulnerability to extinction. Mountain plover have proven to be adaptable to many human activities, such as using crop fields for breeding and wintering, and benefitting from some cattle grazing practices. Over time, the extent of wintering habitat in California is likely to decline, but wintering mountain plover exploit a variety of grassland, rangeland, crop fields, and semi-desert landscapes from the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Ocean. We conclude that any foreseeable future declines in wintering habitat, in California or elsewhere, are unlikely to imperil the mountain plover.
We estimate the current rangewide mountain plover breeding population to be over 20,000 birds. This is more than double the estimate of 8,000 to 10,000 mountain plover that we cited in our December 5, 2002, proposal to list the mountain plover as a threatened species (67 FR 72396). While we have no evidence that an actual population increase has occurred, a larger known population provides added security from current and future potential influences and threats.
76 Fed. Reg. 25660 (Thursday, May 5, 2011)
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Notice of 90-Day Finding on a Petition to Revise Critical Habitat for the Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtle Under the Endangered Species Act
SUMMARY: We, NMFS, announce a 90-day finding on a petition to revise critical habitat for the endangered leatherback sea turtle under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We find that the petition presents substantial scientific information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted for leatherback sea turtles and their habitat under our jurisdiction.
KEITHINKING: for the Sierra Club petition to revise critical habitat, click here, and for the prior NOAA report, click here. But don't miss Emily Brand's law review article wondering whether the critical habitat designation of open ocean is worthwhile, and the NOAA World article (and source of the photo above) discussing Leatherback conservation efforts across the Pacific.