Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Fish and Wildlife Service Publishes Court-Directed Clarification of 2005 Final Rule That Designated Critical Habitat for 15 Vernal Pool Species

May 31, 2007


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

In compliance with federal court orders, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today published a clarification of the economic and non-economic exclusions in the 2005 final rule designating critical habitat for 15 vernal pool species.

The clarification did not result in any additions, deletions or other changes to the areas previously designated as critical habitat.

Published in the Federal Register, the clarification complies with two orders by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The orders on Nov. 1, 2006, and clarified in an order on Jan. 24, 2007, were in response to several lawsuits challenging portions of the Service's Aug. 11, 2005 final rule designating 858,846 acres as critical habitat for 15 vernal pool species that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The critical habitat occurs in one Oregon and 30 California counties.

Lawsuits challenging the 2005 rule by differing interests were consolidated into one action (Home Builders Association of Northern California et al v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service et al, Case No. CIV S-05-0629 WBS-GGH). The suits were filed by the Home Builders Association of Northern California and the Butte Environmental Council.

In the two orders, the Court upheld the rationale and methodology employed by the Service in writing its 2005 rule, and dismissed most causes of action by plaintiffs. The Court remanded the 2005 rule for consideration of the recovery benefits of critical habitat pursuant to the Gifford Pinchot decision. The Court provided a brief 120-day period for the Service to complete its reconsideration. The Court did not direct the Service to conduct a public hearing or to solicit additional information during that short period.

Today the Service provided clarification of the economic and non-economic exclusions underlying the final designation of critical habitat. The clarification explains the Service's considerations in excluding proposed critical habitat units from the 2005 rule. The Service concludes that the exclusions will not hinder recovery of vernal pool species, and in some aspects will contribute to an improved climate for conservation measures.

The clarification also notes that, subsequent to the 2005 rule, the Service received four petitions to revise critical habitat. Under terms of the remand, the Service reanalyzed the information in those petitions and concluded that the petitions do not contain substantial new information that would warrant revision of critical habitat.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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