Sage grouse listing review begun
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
February 26, 2008
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the greater sage-grouse will receive additional review to determine if the species warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). FWS is opening a 90-day public comment period to allow all interested parties an opportunity to provide information regarding the status of the species.
FWS is initiating the new status review to take into consideration relevant new information that has become available since its 2005 finding that the greater sage-grouse did not require protection under the ESA. FWS will evaluate all new information regarding the status and distribution of the greater sage grouse, including the impacts or potential impacts of threats to the species resulting from either human activities or natural causes. FWS also will consider the effects of conservation efforts.
FWS expects to use this status review to address a recent court decision that required it to reexamine its 2005 decision. FWS may make one of three possible findings regarding listing the species throughout all or a significant portion of its range:
· Listing is not warranted;
· Listing is warranted; or
· Listing is warranted, but immediate preparation of a proposed listing rule is precluded by the need to work on pending listing proposals of higher priority.
A “not warranted” finding means further consideration under the ESA would end unless significant new information becomes available. A finding that listing is “warranted” or “warranted but precluded” would trigger further steps to determine whether to list the species. A “warranted” finding would be promptly followed by publication of a proposed rule to list the species, with an opportunity for public comment. A final decision to list or not list the species would be made one year after publication of a proposed listing rule.
A finding that listing is “warranted but precluded” results in recognition of the species as a candidate for listing. Such a finding must be reconsidered annually, taking into account changes in the status of the species. When higher priority listing actions have been addressed for other species, a proposed listing rule is prepared and issued for public comment. Such candidate species do not receive protection under the ESA. However, the Service encourages implementation of conservation efforts for such species so that listing might become unnecessary. The required annual reconsideration of a finding for a candidate species may result in a new finding that listing is not warranted.
In January 2005, FWS determined that the greater sage-grouse was not in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and announced that protection under the ESA was not warranted. An organization called Western Watersheds Project challenged the 2005 finding in federal court. In December 2007, the court remanded the finding back to the Service for further consideration.
Comments and information will be accepted until May 27, 2008, and can be submitted electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at: http://www.regulations.gov, or can be mailed or hand delivered to:
Public Comments Processing
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222
Arlington, VA 22203.
Information submitted in response to the 12-month finding published in 2005 will be considered and need not be resubmitted.
Notice of this initiation of a status review is published in today’s Federal Register.
For more information, click on the link below.