Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office
Southwest Region


This is the web site of the Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office. Use the links to the left or at the bottom to browse the sections of this and related sites. Below are some news and updates regarding the activities of this office.

IMPORTANT  In an effort to ensure continuity of operations of the Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office, please submit ALL project review requests in electronic format (email) until further notice. All project requests located within the Oklahoma Office area of responsibility should be sent to OKProjectReview@fws.gov. Other general correspondence for the Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office should be sent electronically to Susan Minnick.

Now Live in IPaC - Determination Key to the American Burying Beetle 4(d) Rule for Federal and Non-Federal Activities

The interim determination key for the American burying beetle 4(d) rule has been replaced by an online, automated determination key that is available through the Service’s Information for Planning and Consultation (IPaC) system. The IPaC system and additional information on threatened and endangered species is available on the Service's Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS). Additional information on the 4(d) rule determination key and other American burying beetle information is available at our American burying beetle webpage.

The Interior Least Tern is Recovered!

After more than three decades of conservation partnerships inspired by the Endangered Species Act (Act), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is celebrating the delisting of the interior least tern due to recovery. According to the best available science, the diverse efforts of local, state and federal stakeholders across the interior least tern’s range have helped ensure populations are healthy and stable. The Service worked closely with a variety of partners across the interior least tern’s broad range since its listing in 1985 to protect and recover the bird. The tern will continue to be protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

When the interior least tern was listed under the Act in 1985, there were estimated to be fewer than 2,000 birds and only a few dozen nesting sites scattered across a once-expansive range that covered America’s Great Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley. Today, there are more than 18,000 interior least terns at more than 480 nesting sites in 18 states. The majority of these birds nest on the lower Mississippi River, and Oklahoma supports at least 2,000-3,000 interior least terns that nest on the Cimarron, Arkansas, Canadian and Red Rivers and some salt flats.

Least terns are the smallest members of the tern family and feed primarily on small fish. They are generally considered seabirds, but several species are also found along rivers, lakes or other wetlands. They nest along more than 2,800 miles of river channel habitat across the Great Plains and the Lower Mississippi Valley and winter in the Caribbean and South America.

Federal and state agencies and industrial partners have all contributed to the interior least tern’s successful recovery. Depending upon local conditions and needs, active habitat management has included: monitoring, protection of nesting areas, improved water flows, dredge material placement, vegetation and predator control. Many of these beneficial activities have become standard practices and will continue after the interior least tern is delisted, such as management and monitoring efforts by states, federal agencies and industries. The final rule to remove the Interior least tern from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (Docket No. FWS R4 ES 2018 0082) published on Wednesday, January 13, 2021, and will be effective on February 12, 2021.

News Release and FAQs

Proposed Endangered Species Status for the Peppered Chub and Designation of Critical Habitat

12/1/2020 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed a Species Status Assessment for the peppered chub (Macrhybopsis tetranema). Based on a review of the best available scientific information, the Service is proposing to protect the peppered chub as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act due to its significant decline. The Service is also proposing to designate 1,068 river miles in Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas as critical habitat that will be essential to the conservation of the species.

We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before February 1, 2021. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see link to Proposed Rule, below) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date.

Update on the American Burying Beetle Final Rule to Downlist as Threatened

On September 3, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the final determination downlisting the American burying beetle from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We also announced a final 4(d) rule for the species. The final rule is available in the Federal Register Reading Room as of October 14, 2020, and made available in the Federal Register on October 15, 2020 (LINK). The rule will be effective on November 16, 2020, which is 30 days after publication.

Oklahoma City & Water Utility Submit Habitat Conservation Plan for Second Atoka Reservoir Pipeline Construction

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has announced in the Federal Register (September 10, 2020) the availability of a draft environmental assessment (dEA) under the National Environmental Policy Act, and a habitat conservation plan (HCP) for construction of a public water supply pipeline, the Second Atoka Pipeline Project, in six Oklahoma counties. Under the Endangered Species Act, the City of Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust (applicants) have applied for an incidental take permit (ITP) to cover incidental take of the American burying beetle (ABB) from activities associated with construction of the pipeline project. The applicants have proposed an HCP that would be implemented to address project impacts on the ABB. The dEA evaluates the impacts of, and alternatives to, implementation of the proposed HCP. The Service is seeking public comment on the dEA and the requested approval of the HCP and ITP. To ensure consideration, written comments must be received or postmarked by October 13, 2020. Any comments we receive after the closing date may not be considered in final decisions on the Service’s action.

Additional information about the Federal Register notice, the dEA, and the process for submitting comments may be found at the links below:

Partnership-Driven Efforts Lead to Downlisting of the American Burying Beetle

Thanks in part to the efforts of dedicated partners across this species’ range, the first insect added to the endangered species list is staging a comeback: the American burying beetle (ABB). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is downlisting the ABB under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), from endangered to threatened. The Final Rule can be downloaded HERE with more information available on the ABB page

Service Announces Availability of the Low Effect Screening Form for Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit for the American Burying Beetle Related to Replacement of NS-374 Bridge over Leader Creek in Hughes County, Oklahoma

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has received an Application for an Incidental Take Permit under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended, for the American Burying Beetle, from Hughes County, and Availability of Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) in Hughes County, Oklahoma. The Supporting Documentation referenced in the Federal Register are listed below.

Hughes County has developed a proposed plan to minimize the potential impacts to the American burying beetle from the NS-374 bridge replacement over Leader Creek in Hughes County, Oklahoma. The Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with an application for an Incidental Take Permit under the Endangered Species Act.

Habitat Conservation Plans are one of the many ESA tools that helps conserve species and supports their on-the-ground activities. If approved, the Hughes County NS-374 Bridge HCP would implement conservation actions on behalf of the ABB, while also allowing the county to provide infrastructure improvements to the community.

Members of the public are invited to submit comments by email to OKES_NEPA@fws.gov through September 28, 2020. The Supporting Documentation referenced in the Federal Register are listed below.

COVID 19 Temporary bat handling guidance

On June 12,2020, the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (Director) sent a memorandum to clarify the recommendations for permittees working with listed bat species to mitigate the risk of human transmitting SARS-Co V-2 to bats or coronavirus transmitted from bats to humans. Please see this memo HERE.

We recognize that information from biological surveys is important for future or ongoing effects determinations to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), such as section 7 consultations or section 10 actions (HCPs, SHAs, CCAAs, etc.). Considering the current conditions related to COVID-19, we will be as flexible as possible working with project proponents and applicants that choose to use alternative strategies that do not involve physical contact with bats to inform ESA determinations. We ask that you please work with your local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Office to discuss these case-by-case situations and develop appropriate strategies as needed. If you have any questions about this request, please contact Matt Fullerton.

Industry Conservation Plan for the American Burying Beetle Amended

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has approved an amendment to the American Burying Beetle Industry Conservation Plan (ABB ICP). The plan, originally approved in 2014, provides the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma a streamlined Endangered Species Act (ESA) permitting process for activities that may impact the American burying beetle (ABB).

In the interest of providing industry with greater certainty while continuing to ensure the conservation of the American burying beetle, the Service amended the ABB ICP to extend it for three years (through May 20, 2019). In addition to extending the ABB ICP timeframe, the amendment: extends the construction period for permitted projects until May 20, 2025; extends operations and maintenance coverage for activities including maintenance of right-of-ways and repairing pipelines until May 20, 2039; and removes requirements that all projects must be completely located within the planning area. The amendment does not change the amount of take authorized under the 2014 ABB ICP and no additional acreage will be impacted. For more information, visit the ICP webpage.

 Older blurbs on this page have been moved to the PDF located HERE

Bison grazing at the Wichita Mountains NWR
Last updated: June 28, 2021
All images by FWS unless otherwise noted.