Prelisting Conservation Policy
GopherTortoise - Candidate Species
Credit: Randy Browning - USFWS
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service published a Director's Order to provide incentives for landowners to conserve candidate species, which are not listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The policy provides a mechanism for landowners, government agencies, and others to obtain credits for current conservation efforts benefiting declining species. These conservation credits can be redeemed later or sold to a third party to offset or mitigate detrimental actions to a species if it later gains ESA protection. Credits can be earned only before a species becomes listed and only for actions that are not mandated by federal, state, or local law. This policy will help us further our efforts to protect species and their ecosystems to prevent their further decline and ultimately the need to list them under the ESA.
Species Listed under the Endangered Species Act and Pending Evaluations of Other Species
Legal actions brought under the Endangered Species Act have dramatically increased the workload of the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Between our listing work plan and other petitions under the ESA, the Southeast Region is required to evaluate whether more than 350 species need federal protection, which is about 60 percent of the national workload.
In 2009 and 2010, two advocacy groups filed lawsuits related to the Service’s missed deadlines under the Act, and the national backlog of 251 species categorized as candidates for the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Species. Candidates are those species that warrant Federal protection, but the final decision has been delayed due to resource constraints and higher listing priorities.
New Group of Prized Whooping Cranes Arrive in Louisiana
December 2, 2016 – The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries received the second of three shipments of Whooping Cranes this year on Thursday, Dec. 1, when a Windway Capitol Corporation jet landed at Abbeville Airport carrying 10 of the big birds from Patuxent Wildlife Research in Laurel, Md.
LDWF staff transported the birds, each enclosed in individual ventilated boxes, to an awaiting trailer which took the whooping cranes to the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Grand Chenier.
Each bird was carefully removed from its box and inspected by LDWF veterinarian, Jim LaCour. After a brief examination, each bird was outfitted with color bands around its legs and either a VHF transmitter or satellite transmitter. Once the birds are released, the transmitters will be used by biologists to track their movements.
Ms. Deborah Fuller Receives Certificate of Honor Award For Public Service
Ms. Deborah Fuller
October 2016 – After retiring from many years of dedicated public service at the Louisiana Ecological Services Office, Ms. Deborah Fuller received a Certificate of Honor for Meritorious Service from the U.S. Department of Interior, signed by Mr. Micheal Bean, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish & Wildlife and Parks. The Honor Award was presented to Ms. Fuller by Ms. Cindy Dohner, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Regional Director for the Southeast Region.
Louisiana Pinesnake Proposed to be Added as Threatened Under the Endangered Species Act
LA Pine Snake
October 5, 2016 – The Louisiana pinesnake, a large, non-venomous snake now found only in isolated areas of Louisiana and Texas, is being proposed for listing as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
At the same time, the Service is seeking ideas and comments on activities that should be considered for inclusion in an upcoming list of activities that would be exempted from any impacts of this proposed action under the ESA’s Section 4d. It’s an opportunity for the Service to hear from private landowners, timber companies, conservation groups and anyone interested in our work to protect the Louisiana pinesnake and to keep working lands working.
The decision to propose the listing is based on an analysis of the best available scientific and commercial data regarding the status of the snake and threats to its existence. A threatened designation means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a big part of its range in the two states.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to List Pearl Darter as Threatened
Credit: JR Schute Conservation Fisheries
September 20, 2016 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined the pearl darter is likely to be at risk of becoming endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Therefore, the Service proposes to add this small, snub-nosed fish to the list of protected wildlife as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
At the same time, the Service has concluded that critical habitat cannot be determined because additional information is needed to complete the required analyses of potential impacts from a proposed designation. The pearl darter is currently listed as endangered in Mississippi by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.
“The Southeast Region's rich biodiversity is like no other in the nation,” said Cynthia Dohner, Southeast Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We need to conserve wildlife and their habitats for future generations because this conservation can also help ensure cleaner streams and rivers for people to use and enjoy as well.”
Fish and Wildlife Service Conducting Five-Year Status Reviews of 22 Southeastern Species
Endangered Alabama Beach Mouse
August 30, 2016 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct five-year status reviews of 15 endangered and seven threatened species occurring across the southeastern United States. The public is invited to provide information and comments concerning these species on or before October 31, 2016.
These reviews will ensure listing classifications under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) reflect the latest available information and data. In addition to reviewing the classification of these species, a five-year review presents an opportunity to track the species’ recovery progress, and may benefit species by providing valuable information to guide future conservation efforts.
Information gathered during a review can influence funding decisions, considerations related to reclassifying species status, conducting interagency consultations, making permitting decisions, and determining whether to update recovery plans and other actions.
New Science Provides Foundation for Proposed Changes to Service’s Eagle Conservation and Management Program
Adult Bald Eagle
May 4, 2016 – In a move designed to maintain strong protections for bald and golden eagles, the Service is opening a 60-day public comment period on proposed improvements to its comprehensive eagle conservation and management program. The proposed changes include modifications to the regulations governing permits for incidental take of bald and golden eagles that will protect eagle populations during the course of otherwise lawful human activities.
A simultaneous public comment period also opens on a related proposed programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS). This PEIS forms an integral part of the environmental review process for the changes to the eagle permitting program. The Service also made public a new report assessing the status, trends and resiliency of bald and golden eagle populations. The report underpins the proposed revisions to the conservation and management program.
The Service is proposing the revisions to its bald and golden eagle regulations, which it administers under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act), in response to extensive public input since the original regulations were published in 2009. This includes comments received during a series of public information meetings. The proposed revisions build on that input and on an extensive review of the best available science.
Federal Agencies Propose Revisions to CCAA Policy under the ESA
May 3, 2016 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries today proposed revisions to the Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) policy under the Endangered Species Act. The revisions, which do not change requirements of participating landowners, will simplify the process of developing and approving CCAAs, which provide incentives for the public to implement specific conservation measures for declining species before they are listed under the ESA. The Service is also proposing changes to its CCAA regulations to make them consistent with the proposed changes to the policy.
Together, the agencies propose adding a definition of "net conservation benefit" and eliminating references to the requirement of "other necessary properties" to the CCAA policy. These changes will clarify the standards that must be met in order for a CCAA to be approved, making it easier for interested non-federal property owners to enroll in CCAAs to benefit declining species before they gain federal protection under the ESA. To participate in a CCAA, property owners agree to implement specific conservation measures on their land to eliminate or reduce threats to the species that are covered under the agreement. In return, participants receive assurances that they will not be required to undertake any additional conservation measures beyond those agreed upon, even if new information indicates that additional or revised conservation measures are needed for the species. Additionally, property owners will not be subject to additional resource use or land use restrictions if a species covered under the CCAA gains ESA protection as an endangered or threatened species.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Determines Critical Habitat is Not Prudent for Threatened Northern Long-eared Bat
Northern Long-eared Bat
April 25, 2016 – Given the nature of the primary threats facing the species and the potential harm of publishing its hibernation locations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that designating critical habitat for the northern long-eared bat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is not prudent. The Service’s determination does not affect the bat’s threatened status, which it received in 2015 due to white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease impacting cave-dwelling bats.
Critical habitat is a designation under the ESA for lands that contain habitat features that are essential for the survival and recovery of a listed species, which may require special management considerations or protections. The ESA requires the Service to consider which areas are needed for a species’ recovery and to designate critical habitat accordingly, unless it determines that doing so is not prudent for the species.
In making its determination, the Service conducted an in-depth analysis of the bat’s seasonal habitat needs, which include mines and caves for hibernation in winter and forested areas for roosting and raising young in summer. Because designating critical habitat requires identification of specific tracts of land, the Service determined it is not prudent to designate hibernation sites as critical habitat. Doing so would increase the risk of vandalism and disturbance to bats at hibernation sites and could hasten the spread of white-nose syndrome.
New Information Shows Sprague’s Pipit Does Not Require Federal Protection
April 4, 2016 – The Sprague’s pipit is a relatively small, brown striped, perching bird that nests in the ground and breeds in the open grasslands of the north-central U.S. This songbird performs the longest known territorial flight display, and migrates to the South for winter. Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced this native bird no longer meets the definition of a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
In a thorough status review using the best available science and modeling, the Service found that habitat loss from agriculture in the Sprague’s pipit’s key breeding grounds does not pose a significant risk, historic rates of population decline are expected to stabilize, and that the pipit is not as affected as once thought by energy development and connecting roads. Studies also show Sprague’s pipits are more mobile, adaptable and found in more areas than expected in wintering habitat.
In 2010, the Sprague’s pipit was identified as a candidate species. But this new information shows the above factors do not pose a significant threat to the pipit’s long-term survival, and the Service is withdrawing it from the candidate list.
Historic Hatch: Whooping Crane Hatches in Wild in Louisiana for First Time Since 1939
Whooping Crane Hatch
April 12, 2016 – A major milestone was reached this week in the reintroduction of the whooping crane in Louisiana when the first hatching of a chick in the state in more than 75 years occurred in Jefferson Davis Parish.
The hatching, the first seen in Louisiana’s wild since 1939, represents another step forward in the program established in February of 2011 when the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reintroduced whooping cranes back into the state at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish.
LDWF has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to return the species to the state. Project funding comes from the LDWF Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge funds, federal funds and private/corporate donations, which are facilitated by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation. Chevron has been a major corporate donor in the program.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Comment on Draft Revised Recovery Plan for Northern Great Plains Piping Plover Population
March 15, 2016 – The piping plover, a small, sparrow-sized migratory shorebird known for its melodic mating call, may benefit from increased conservation activities, thanks to a new recovery plan released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service).
This “Draft Revised Recovery Plan” is specific to the Northern Great Plains (NGP) piping plover population, which is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Additional Information on Six Petitioned Species Including Three Salamanders, One Lizard, and Two Insects Found in the Southeast
Cheoah Bald Salamander
Credit: Aposematic Herpetologist
March 15, 2016 – Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a batch of 90-day findings affecting a variety of species across the nation. Biologists have determined the following species found in the southeastern United States do not require further review for federal protection at this time: Cheoah bald salamander, Monito skink, Southern dusky salamander and the South Mountain gray-cheeked salamander.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Delists Louisiana Black Bear Due To Recovery
LA Black Bear
Credit: Ashley Hockenberry
March 10, 2016 – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced that due to 24 years of dedicated recovery efforts by a broad array of partners, the Louisiana black bear—the inspiration for the teddy bear—will be removed from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The species restoration is a significant conservation success and further demonstrates the value of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Jewell was joined by U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Ann Mills, U.S. Department of the Interior Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Michael Bean, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Charlie Melancon, and other conservation partners at the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana to celebrate the success.
Service Announces Draft Methodology for Prioritizing Endangered Species Act Status Reviews
Sprague's Pipit, a canidate for ESA listing
January 14, 2016 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a draft methodology to better identify and prioritize pending Endangered Species Act (ESA) "status reviews," the process by which the Service determines whether a species that has been petitioned for listing warrants ESA protection. The methodology will assist the Service and its partners in addressing America's most imperiled wildlife and plant species first, while reinforcing collaboration between the Service and its partners and maximizing transparency throughout the decision-making process.
"This methodology will help us strategically prioritize work on Endangered Species Act listing petitions to ensure the most urgent wildlife needs are addressed first, while also providing a common sense and defensible path to address all petitions," said Dan Ashe, Service Director. "The methodology will help us provide greater certainty and transparency to our partners through subsequent development of a publicly available, strategic workplan that reflects our work priorities."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Reclassify West Indian Manatee from Endangered to Threatened
West Indian Manatee
January 7, 2016 – As a result of significant improvements in its population and habitat conditions, and reductions in direct threats, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that the West Indian manatee is proposed to be downlisted from endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposal to downlist the manatee to threatened will not affect federal protections currently afforded by the ESA, and the Service remains committed to conservation actions to fully recover manatee populations.
The ESA defines an endangered species as one currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and a threatened species as one that is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. Given its review of the best scientific and commercial information available, including analyses of threats and populations, the Service proposes that the West Indian manatee no longer falls within the ESA's definition of endangered and should be reclassified as threatened. The Service will publish its proposal in the Federal Register tomorrow, beginning a 90-day comment period in which the public is invited to submit scientific or technical information that will aid the agency in reaching its final decision.
Endangered Species Act Protection Not Needed for 10 Species in the Southeast
Credit: Greg Thompson USFWS
October 7, 2015 – The Cumberland arrow darter, Shawnee darter, Sequatchie caddisfly, American eel, and six Tennessee cave beetles do not need protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – upon reviewing the status of these 10 species – found their status to be stable, and in some cases much better than expected. The Service's close partnership with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency were crucial to this positive announcement.
Service Launches Strategic Plan for Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program
Gulf Sturgeon Sampling
Credit: Haile Macurdy USFWS
September 15, 2015 – Many conservation challenges face the nation's fish and aquatic resources, including habitat loss and fragmentation, introduction and establishment of invasive species, and climate change. Today the Service announced a new strategic plan for its Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program that will address these challenges while providing guidance for the Program's annual operations for the next five years.
Recovery Plan for Endangered Dusky Gopher Frog Available
Dusky Gopher Frog
Credit: John Tupy
September 9, 2015 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing the availability of the final recovery plan for the dusky gopher frog, federally listed as endangered.
The dusky gopher frog, a stocky frog with a loud, guttural call, is heard less often now in the longleaf pine forests of Mississippi. Once also found in Louisiana and Alabama, now it is only found in four locations in Harrison and Jackson counties in southern Mississippi.
NFWF Announces $4.6 Million in Funding for Restoration of Longleaf Pine Forest and Ecosystem Across the Southeast
June 30, 2015 – The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $4.6 million in grants to support the longleaf ecosystem and advance the objectives of the Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine. Funding was awarded to 22 projects across the historic longleaf range that ultimately will restore more than 11,600 acres and enhance more than 163,000 additional acres of longleaf pine habitat, while leveraging over $6.4 million in additional funds from grant partners.
The grants are administered by NFWF's Longleaf Stewardship Fund, a landmark public-private partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and private funding from Southern Company, International Paper's Forestland Stewards Initiative and Altria Group. The fund, now in its fourth year, combines the financial and technical resources of the partnership to accelerate restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem and implementation of the Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine as part of America's Longleaf Restoration Initiative.
Service Protects Red Knot as Threatened Under the Endangered Species Act
A tagged rufa red knot in Mispillion Harbor, DE
December 9, 2014 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced federal protection for the rufa subspecies of the red knot, a robin-sized shorebird, designating it as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A "threatened" designation means a species is at risk of becoming endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
"The red knot is a remarkable and resilient bird known to migrate thousands of miles a year from the Canadian Arctic to the southern tip of South America," said Service Director Dan Ashe. "Unfortunately, this hearty shorebird is no match for the widespread effects of emerging challenges like climate change and coastal development, coupled with the historic impacts of horseshoe crab overharvesting, which have sharply reduced its population in recent decades."
Population Viability and Connectivity of the Louisiana Black Bear (Ursus americanus luteolus)
La Black Bear
November 19, 2014 – In 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) granted Ursus americanus luteolus (Louisiana black bear) threatened status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973, listing loss and fragmentation of habitat as the primary threats. A study was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the University of Tennessee, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the USFWS to estimate demographic rates and genetic structure of Louisiana black bear populations; evaluate relations between environmental and anthropogenic factors and demographic, genetic, and movement characteristics of Louisiana black bear populations; and develop data-driven stochastic population projection models to assess long-term persistence of individual subpopulations and the overall black bear population in Louisiana.
Data were collected with non-invasive DNA sampling, live capture, winter den visits, and radio monitoring from 2002 to 2012 in the four areas supporting breeding subpopulations in Louisiana: Tensas River Basin (TRB), Upper Atchafalaya River Basin (UARB), Lower Atchafalaya River Basin (LARB), and Three Rivers Complex (TRC). Bears were live trapped and radio collared in the TRB and TRC to estimate survival and reproductive rates, deterministic matrix models were used to estimate asymptotic growth rates, and stochastic population models were used to estimate long-term viability. DNA extracted from hair collected at baited, barbed-wire enclosures in the TRB, UARB, and LARB and capture-mark-recapture (CMR) analysis based on Bayesian hierarchical modeling methods were used to estimate apparent survival (φ), per capita recruitment (γ), abundance (N), realized growth rate (λ), and long-term viability.