Background - United States Fish and Wildlife Service
Endangered Species Act Revisions to the Implementing Regulations 50 CFR Parts 424, 402, and 17 Background Section 4 of the Act Provides for how to add and remove species from the Federal lists of threatened and endangered species Provides procedures for designating critical habitat Implementing regulations are at 50 CFR 424 Addresses protective regulations for threatened
species (i.e., 4(d) rules) Section 7 of the Act Provides requirements for Federal agency cooperation and consultation procedures Implementing regulations are at 50 CFR 402 Section 9 of the Act Establishes prohibitions for listed species Implementing regulations are at 50 CFR 17 How were the final
revisions made? Implementing an Executive Order aimed at reducing the regulatory burden on citizens and promoting innovation DOI and NMFS requested public input on regulatory reform initiatives (summer 2017) DOI and DOC Policy Officials met with the FWS and NMFS ESA leadership in Dec 2017 to brainstorm improvements to the ESA decided to focus on sections 4 and 7 of ESA 60-day public comment period; considered and addressed hundreds of thousands of comments Proposed and final rules underwent Federal interagency review led by the Office of Management and Budget
Changes to 50 CFR 424 Listing, Delisting, or Reclassifying species Creates a regulatory framework for the phrase foreseeable future Clarifies that the standard for listing and delisting of species is the same Removes reference to economic or other impacts in classification decisions Changes to 50 CFR 424 Criteria for Designating Critical Habitat
Clarifies when designation of critical habitat may not be prudent Revises the process and standards for designation of unoccupied critical habitat Revises the definition of physical or biological features Foreseeable Future In determining whether a species is a threatened species, the Services must analyze whether the species is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future. The term foreseeable future
extends only so far into the future as the Services can reasonably determine that both the conditions potentially posing a danger of extinction in the foreseeable future threats and the species responses to those threats are probable likely. The Services will describe the foreseeable future on a case-by-case basis, using the best available data and taking into account considerations such as the species life-history characteristics, threat-projection timeframes, and environmental variability. The Services need not identify the foreseeable future in terms of a specific period of time, but may instead explain the extent to which they can reasonably determine that both the future threats and the species responses to those threats are probable.
Foreseeable Future Extends only so far as we can reasonably determine that threats and the species responses to those threats are likely. Described on a case-by-case basis, using the best available data for each species No specific timeframes are necessary, qualitative descriptions are ok Factors Considered in Delisting Clarifies that the standard for listing and delisting of
species is the same (i.e., whether a species meets the definitions of endangered or threatened) Clarifies it is appropriate to delist a species when: It is extinct It does not meet definition of an endangered or threatened species Listed entity does not meet the definition of a species Economic or Other Impacts The Secretary shall make any determination required by paragraphs (c), (d), and (e) of this section solely on the basis of the best available scientific and
commercial information regarding a species status without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination. Aligns the regulatory text more closely to the statutory language Impacts information, if compiled, would be to inform the public in the interest of transparency Critical Habitat Not Prudent Critical habitat may be not prudent when: Increased degree of threat; Habitat impacts not a threat or threats to habitat stem
solely from causes not able to be addressed by section 7(a)(2) of the Act; Areas within U.S. jurisdiction provide no more than negligible conservation value for species occurring primarily outside U.S. jurisdiction; No areas meet definition; or The Secretary otherwise determines critical habitat is not prudent Removes language regarding designation of critical habitat would not be beneficial to the species Unoccupied Critical Habitat
When designating critical habitat, the Secretary will first evaluate areas occupied by the species. The Secretary will only consider unoccupied areas to be essential where a critical habitat designation limited to geographical areas occupied would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species In addition, for an unoccupied area to be considered essential, the Secretary must determine that there is a reasonable certainty both that the area will contribute to the conservation of the species and that the area contains one or more of those physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species.
Definition or Physical or Biological Features Physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species. The features that occur in specific areas and that are essential to support the life-history needs of the species, including but not limited to, water characteristics, soil type, geological features, sites, prey, vegetation, symbiotic species, or other features. A feature may be a single habitat characteristic, or a more complex combination of habitat characteristics. Features may include habitat characteristics that support ephemeral or dynamic habitat conditions. Features may also be expressed in terms
relating to principles of conservation biology, such as patch size, distribution distances, and connectivity. Revisions to 50 CFR 402 The revisions: Address alternative consultation mechanisms Revise the definitions of destruction or adverse modification and effects of the action Address certainty of mitigation proposed by action agencies
Otherwise improve the consultation process Alternative Consultation Mechanisms the Revisions Define programmatic consultation Allow the Services to adopt all or part of a Federal agencys initiation package in their biological opinions Insert a new provision Expedited consultation to offer opportunities to streamline consultation in certain circumstances
Clarified Effects of the Action Revised the definition of effects of the action Introduced the word consequences as part of the definition Inserted a new section that clarifies factors to consider for Activities reasonably certain to occur Established a standalone definition for environmental baseline Clarified what information is needed to initiate consultation Effects of the action are all consequences to
listed species or critical habitat that are caused by the proposed action, including the consequences of other activities that are caused by the proposed action. A consequence is caused by the proposed action if it would not occur but for the proposed action and it is reasonably certain to occur. Effects of the action may occur later in time and may include consequences occurring outside the immediate area involved in the action. (Sec 402.02) 402.17 Other Provisions (a) Activities that are reasonably certain to occur. A conclusion of
reasonably certain to occur must be based on clear and substantial information, using the best scientific and commercial data available. Factors to consider when evaluating whether activities caused by the proposed action (but not part of the proposed action) or activities reviewed under cumulative effects are reasonably certain to occur include, but are not limited to: (1) Past experiences with activities that have resulted from actions that are similar in scope, nature, and magnitude to the proposed action; (2) Existing plans for the activity; and (3) Any remaining economic, administrative, and legal requirements necessary for the activity to go forward.
Environmental Baseline Established a standalone definition for environmental baseline Clarifies that consequences from some ongoing activities and existing facilities are part of the environmental baseline Environmental baseline refers to the condition of the listed species or its designated critical habitat in the action area, without the consequences to the listed species or designated critical habitat caused by the proposed action.
The environmental baseline includes the past and present impacts of all Federal, State, or private actions and other human activities in the action area, the anticipated impacts of all proposed Federal projects in the action area that have already undergone formal or early section 7 consultation, and the impact of state or private actions which are contemporaneous with the consultation in process. The consequences to listed species or designated critical habitat from ongoing agency activities or existing agency facilities that are not within the agencys discretion to modify are part of the environmental baseline.
Revised the Definition of Destruction or Adverse Modification Added the phrase as a whole to the first sentence Struck the definitions second sentence Destruction or Adverse Modification means a direct or indirect alteration that appreciably diminishes the value of critical habitat as a whole for the conservation of a listed species. Such alterations may include, but
are not limited to, those that alter the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of a species or that preclude or significantly delay development of such features. Addressed Certainty of Mitigation 402.14 (g)(8) Measures included in the proposed action or a reasonable and prudent alternative that are intended to avoid, minimize or offset the effects of an action are considered like other portions of
the action and do not require any additional demonstration of binding plans. 402.13 Informal consultation Addition of the 60 day timeline for concurrence letters The 60-day timeframe may be extended upon mutual consent of the Service, Federal agency, and applicant (if
involved), but shall not exceed 120 days total The changes, do not alter review and response to biological assessments prepared for actions that fit the regulatory definition of major construction activities. For those consultations the response would be required within 30 days as specified at 402.12 (j) and (k).
Also clarified that request for concurrence must contain similar information as that required for formal consultation Otherwise Improving the Consultation Process Clarifies the analytical steps the Services undertake in formulating a biological opinion Clarifies that reinitiation of consultation applies to all 7(a)(2) consultations (acknowledges court rulings and practice) Eliminates need to reinitiate consultation on certain land management plans upon listing of new species or designation of new critical habitat
Changes to 4(d) Rules 50 CFR Part 17 (FWS Only) Rescinds current regulations that automatically apply prohibitions for endangered species to threatened species Protections for species listed as threatened in the future will be made on a case-by-case basis tailored to what is necessary and advisable for that species (i.e., via a species-specific 4(d) rule) No change in protections for species currently listed as threatened species
Aligns the Fish and Wildlife Service with the National Marine Fisheries Service practice Questions?
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