USFWS is one of two Federal agencies that administers the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which was passed by Congress. FWS maintains a list of threatened and endangered species, which includes animals and plants.
The Endangered Species Act, passed by Congress in 1973, is administered by USFWS and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service.
Endangered species are those that are in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Threatened species are those likely to become endangered. A candidate species are those plants and animals for which USFWS has sufficient information to list under the Act, but their status is on hold due to higher priority listing activities.
As of April 2013, the Southeast Region is the lead for 344 species that are listed as threatened or endangered. In total, 389 listed species occur in the Southeast Region.
USFWS lists species as threatened or endangered based on their biological status and threats to their existence. When evaluating a species for listing, USFWS considers five factors:
1) Damage to, or destruction of, a species’ habitat;
2) Overutilization of the species for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes
3) Disease or predation;
4) Inadequacy of existing protection; and
5) Other natural or manmade factors that affect the continued existence of the species.
Listing Proposals and Decisions
In December 2012, FWS proposed to upgrade the status of the U. S. breeding population of wood storks from endangered to threatened under the ESA. The proposal follows a comprehensive review, conducted by Service biologists, of the best available scientific and commercial information about the species’ status. Read more.
Under the Act, citizens may petition USFWS to add species to the list of threatened and endangered species.
Currently, the Southeast Region is responding to the following petitions (all PDF):
Petitioners may choose to withdraw petitions, based on additional information.
To the extent possible, USFWS has 90 days to determine if there is enough information in the petition to warrant further review. During this period, FWS is limited to using the scientific data already available.
USFWS can either determine the petition is not valid and further review is not necessary, or the petition contains substantial information that warrants further review of the species. If the petition would lead a “reasonable person” to believe protecting the species my be warranted, then further review is necessary.
USFWS issues the results in a 90-day finding.
After a 90-day finding is issued for species that warrant further review, USFWS will ask partner agencies, academic institutions and the general public for any and all information on the species in question.
The Southeast Region has recently issued the following 90-day Findings (all PDF):
If USFWS determines a petition warrants further review, the next step is a status review and 12-month Finding. USFWS has one year from the date the substantial petition was received to make a 12-month Finding.
After completing a status review, USFWS will make one of three determinations: the species does not warrant Federal protection; the species does warrant Federal protection but is precluded from being listed by other higher priority actions; or the species warrants Federal protection and the USFWS will issue a proposed rule.
The Southeast Region has recently issued the following 12-month Finding (all PDF):
In addition to petitions, citizens may file complaints to challenge USFWS ESA decisions.
USFWS has received the following 60-Day Notices of Intent to Sue (all in PDF):
- March 23, 2012: Notice of Intent to Sue on Big Sandy Crayfish
- May 25, 2012: Notice of Intent to Sue on Failure to Issue 12-mo Finding on 25 Amphibians and Reptiles
- June 18, 2012: Notice of Intent to Sue for Failure to Issue 12-mo Finding on 10 Florida Species
- July 24, 2012: Notice of Intent to Sue on Obey Crayfish
- August 29, 2012: Notice of Intent to Sue from the National Association of Homebuilders
- September 27, 2012: Notice of Intent to Sue on Dusky Gopher Frog
- October 19, 2012: Landowner Notice of Intent to Sue on Dusky Gopher Frog
- January 29, 2013: Notice of Intent to Sue on the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
- February 20, 2013: Notice of Intent to Sue on the MacGillivray's seaside sparrow and the Florida Keys mole skink
- March 14, 2013: Notice of Intent to Sue on 13 southeastern freshwater species
The following lawsuits have recently been filed under the ESA:
Final Negotiated Settlements
In some cases, the Service has negotiated settlements with the plaintiffs to resolve litigation.
The face of an eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Photo: Tad Arensmeier.
Black-capped petrel. Photo: Patrick Coin.