North Florida Ecological Services Office
Southeast Region

Threatened and Endangered Species: ESA Petitioning Processes Revised

Improvements to Petitioning Process under Endangered Species Act Promotes Coordination, Transparency; Ensures Robust Scientific Review

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is the backbone of conservation efforts for America’s most imperiled plants and animals. It has helped prevent the extinctions of hundreds of species of plants and animals and promoted recovery efforts that have ensured future generations live in a world with bald eagles, American alligators and Steller sea lions. Beginning in 2011, the Obama administration has prioritized efforts to revise regulations and policies to make the ESA more effective, more transparent and easier to implement.

As part of that endeavor, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries (together, the Services) – the agencies that implement the ESA – have improved the process by which species are petitioned for listing, delisting or reclassification under the ESA. The regulations also describe the process by which a petitioner may request revisions to critical habitat designations under the ESA. The revised ESA petition regulations will help ensure more complete and robust petitions that will lead to more effective conservation, greater involvement by state wildlife agencies, and provide greater transparency to the public.

Taken together, the revisions will allow the Services and their partners to better leverage limited resources to more effectively conserve America’s imperiled wildlife. Revisions to the petition regulations were originally proposed in May 2015 and today’s final revisions reflect extensive input from the public and stakeholders. ...more

Federal Register Notice Leaving site icon

Federal Docket FWS-HQ-ES-2015-0016 @ Leaving site icon

News Release

Threatened and Endangered Species: Blue-green Algea Blooms

Federal biologists say no direct health effects on manatees have been confirmed related to the blue-green algae bloom occurring in and around the St. Lucie River and estuary in Martin County

Blue agreen algae bloom along Duval County, FL beach front.

Blue green algae along Florida beach in Duval County..
Photo Courtesy: Florida Department of Health - Duval

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms, while unsightly, are not known to directly affect manatees.

  • As herbivores, manatees eat plants and incidentally ingest algae and other materials while feeding. Freshwater blue-green algae (commonly seen to form a green scum on the surface of the water) could be ingested. So far, it is not known to cause health problems in manatees nor is it known to affect their ability to breed.
  • Blue-green algae blooms can, if present for extended periods of time, shade out aquatic grassbeds where manatees feed and can cause grassbeds to die. The temporary loss of these feeding sites will cause manatees to feed elsewhere until the grassbeds return. Manatees routinely feed at multiple sites, including sites many miles apart.

Government agencies are monitoring algal blooms and manatees in the vicinity of the blooms. The Service is coordinating closely with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission biologists and researchers. Because manatees are not known to be affected by the blooms, there are no plans to relocate them to other areas.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Algal Bloom Information Leaving site icon

Florida Department of Health - Duval Blue Green Algae Safety Tips Leaving site icon

Threatened and Endangered Species: Decades of Conservation Recognized - Protections Remain

Service to propose status upgrade for West Indian manatees

USFWS Southeast photo of green sea turtle with star fish

Manatee at Crystal River NWR, Three Sisters Springs, in Florida
Photo: Keith Ramos, USFWS

[Comment period closed April 7, 2016.] ALL manatee protection measures currently in place remain in force regardless of species' status on the federal list of threatened and endangered species. Please comply with post federal and state manatee protection areas.

MIAMI, FL - 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 proposal published in the Federal Register in January 2016 and was followed by a 90-day comment period that ended in April 2016 during which the public was invited to submit scientific or technical information that would aid the agency in reaching its final decision.

The manatee protection measures currently in place would remain in force if the species is downlisted from endangered to threatened.

The finding, supplemental materials, and all comments and information submitted during the comment period are available online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal: In the Keyword box, enter Docket Number FWS-R4-ES-2015-0178. Background information on the Florida and Antillean sub-species is available at

Comment period closed April 7, 2016.

NOTE: an inadvertent error occurred in the Federal Register's original notice published on January 8, 2016 reflecting the comment period closing April 8, 2015: that is not correct. The date shown above is the correct closing date. The FR published a correction in its Wednesday, January 13, 2016, edition, see link below.

Media contact:
Chuck Underwood (FWS),, 904-731-3332

News Release Leaving site icon

Frequently Asked Questions - also has links to press conference transcript/audio, as well as the open house & public hearing transcript and materials.

Federal Register Notice - Proposal to Reclassify Leaving site icon

Federal Register Notice - Public Comment Period Closing Date Correction Leaving site icon


2016 Updated Wood Stork Map and Mapping Data Available

Wood storks and chicks on nest

Nesting Wood storks

Photo: USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed updating the mapping information for Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) nesting colonies and core forging areas in Florida and the Southeastern U.S. The updated information reflects data from 2005 through 2014, and includes an updated PDF map, GIS shapefiles, and versions of the data compatible with Google Earth. The updated data files are available via the link below and on our Consultant/Landowner Tools reference page.

Wood stork Information


Changes made to ESA Section 7 consultation
request for FEMA CLOMR and CLOMR-F letters

FEMA is no longer accepting a programmatic clearance letter in support of Conditional Letter of Map Revision (CLOMR) and CLOMR_F Letters of Request. As such, the North Florida FWS programmatic clearance letter is no longer available. FEMA now requires consultation letters be specific to each project. Public and private landowners, project managers/planners, and/or consultants now need to submit a clearance request to the Service and FEMA for each project.

Originally designed to assist private small parcel landowners and businesses, the programmatic clearance letter outlined details and specific scenarios and criteria where additional Service review was not considered necessary.

The Service's North Florida ES staff is providing updated information to aid project proponents in their development of a clearance request. See detailed requirements and preferred submission method via link below.

Details Available

Threatened and Endangered Species: Update Permit Conditions

Service posts updated permit conditions for captive sea turtles

Juvenile Hawksbill sea turtle being held.

Hawksbill sea turtle

Photo: USFWS

Individuals and institutions possessing a Service permit to hold captive sea turtles must meet new permit conditions.

The updated Standard Permit Conditions encompass the transport, rehabilitation, and disposition of sea turtles.

Details for the new conditions can be found on the Landowner/Consultant Tools and Sea Turtle information pages.

Frequently Asked Questions on Sea Turtle Permits

Service makes updated Skink Guidance Available

Sand Skink

Sand skink.

Photo: USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has revised the conservation guidelines and survey protocol for the threatened sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi) and blue-tailed mole skink (Eumeces egregius lividus). The updated information is available via the link below and on our Consultant/Landowner Tools reference page.

Skink Information

Updated Eastern indigo snake protocols for North & Central Florida

Eastern Indigo Snake

Eastern Indgio Snake
Photo: USFWS

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's North Florida Ecological Services Office (NFESO) updated its Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) protocols. The updated survey protocols provide consultants and landowners a project planning tool to improve the Service's review of permit applications and proposed land clearing activities for potential effects on the federally-threatened eastern indigo snake. The tool is applicable to the NFESFO geographic area of responsibility, which includes the following counties: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Brevard, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Nassau, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, Putnam, St. Johns, Seminole, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, and Volusia.

Click here for to review the new information

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Last updated: September 27, 2016