The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army are collecting public comment on a ‘proposed rule defining the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act. This proposal is the second step in a comprehensive, two-step process intended to review and revise the definition of “waters of the United States” [put forth in a 2015 rule] consistent with the Executive Order signed on February 28, 2017, “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the `Waters of the United States' Rule.” ’ The proposal would restrict the definition of “waters of the United States” to ‘Traditional navigable waters, including the territorial seas; tributaries that contribute perennial or intermittent flow to such waters; certain ditches; certain lakes and ponds; impoundments of otherwise jurisdictional waters; and wetlands adjacent to other jurisdictional waters.’
The National Marine Fisheries Service is soliciting public comments on a Proposed Endangered Species Act Recovery Plan for Puget Sound Steelhead. The plan ‘addresses the Puget Sound steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) Distinct Population Segment, which was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Ac ton May 11,2007… As required under the [Endangered Species Act], the Proposed Plan contains objective, measurable delisting criteria, site-specific management actions… and estimates of the time and costs required to implement recovery actions.’
*Comment period extended from February 11, 2019
The US Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to ‘designate critical habitat for the Sonoyta mud turtle under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. In total, approximately 12.28 acres (4.97 hectares) in Pima County, Arizona, located entirely within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, fall within the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat designation.’ If finalized as proposed, the rule would extend ‘protections to this subspecies' critical habitat.’ Requested comments include those concerning whether or not the habitat should be designated, those adding information on the turtle's biology and ecology, and comments outlining social/economic implications. There is also a draft economic analysis of the proposed designation of critical habitat for the Sonoyta mud turtle available for comment.
On November 21st, 2018 the US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final rule to list the candy darter as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The US Fish and Wildlife Service now "propose to designate critical habitat for the candy darter (Etheostoma osburni) under the Endangered Species Act. In total, approximately 596 stream kilometers (370 stream miles), in Virginia and West Virginia, fall within the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat designation." A draft economic analysis of the proposed designation of critical habitat is also available.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service ‘announce a 12-month finding on a petition to list the slenderclaw crayfish (Cambarus cracens) as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act... The slenderclaw crayfish is a relatively small, cryptic freshwater crustacean that is endemic to streams on Sand Mountain within the Tennessee River Basin in DeKalb and Marshall Counties, Alabama. After review of the best available scientific and commercial information, [the Service] find that listing the slenderclaw crayfish is warranted,’ and therefore propose to list it as a threatened species. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is also proposing a rule ‘that provides measures that are necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation of the slenderclaw crayfish. In addition, [the Service] propose to designate approximately 78 river miles (126 river kilometers) in Alabama as critical habitat for the species.’ A draft economic analysis of the proposed designation of critical habitat is available. Comments are requested on crayfish biology, management, economic impacts, and more.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service announces ‘a 12-month finding on a petition to list the Atlantic pigtoe (Fusconaia masoni) as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act... The Atlantic pigtoe is a freshwater mussel native to Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. After review of the best available scientific and commercial information, [the US Fish and Wildlife Service] find that listing the Atlantic pigtoe as a threatened species is warranted.’ As a result, the Service is proposing to designate critical habitat. ‘In total, approximately 542 river miles (872 river kilometers) in Virginia and North Carolina fall within the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat designation.’ A draft economic analysis of the proposed designation of critical habitat is available.
The National Marine Fisheries Service ‘has received a request from Hilcorp Alaska, LLC for authorization to take small numbers of marine mammals incidental to oil and gas activities in Cook Inlet, Alaska over the course of five years from the date of issuance. Pursuant to regulations implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act, [the National Marine Fisheries Service] is announcing receipt of the Hilcorp's request for the development and implementation of regulations governing the incidental taking of marine mammals.’ The public is invited to ‘provide information, suggestions, and comments on the Hilcorp's application and request.’
The National Marine Fisheries Service is initiating a global status review of the cauliflower coral (P. meandrina) to determine whether listing it as a threatened or endangered species throughout the entirety of its range is warranted. This action follows a petition requesting that the Hawaii population of P. meandrina be considered a significant portion of the range of the species and that the species be listed because of its status in Hawaii. The policy of on the interpretation of the phrase “Significant Portion of Its Range” (SPR) under the Endangered Species Act states that, before undergoing an SPR analysis, the agency must first find that the species is neither endangered nor threatened throughout all of its range. The National Marine Fisheries Service is soliciting scientific and commercial information from any interested party to ensure that the status review is comprehensive for this proposed rule.`
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ‘announce the availability of the draft recovery plan for the endangered Neosho mucket. The draft recovery plan includes specific recovery objectives and criteria that must be met in order... to delist this species under the Endangered Species Act.’ The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are requesting ‘review and comment on this draft recovery plan from local, State, and Federal agencies; Tribes; and the public.’
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service are proposing changes to the way the two agencies implement the Endangered Species Act, through three separate proposed rules.
(1) Listing Species and Designating Critical Habitat
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service ‘propose to revise portions of our regulations that implement section 4 of the Endangered Species Act.’ The proposed revisions concern ‘the procedures and criteria used for listing or removing species from the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants and designating critical habitat. We also propose to make multiple technical revisions to update existing sections or to refer appropriately to other sections.’
(2)Prohibitions of Activities for Protection of Threatened and Endangered Species
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service propose to revise regulations that extend most prohibitions of activities involving endangered species to threatened species.’ The proposed changes would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ‘to determine what, if any, protective regulations are appropriate for species that the Service in the future determines to be threatened.’ The proposed regulations would not alter prohibitions ‘for species already listed as a threatened species.’
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service ‘propose to amend portions of our regulations’ which dictate ‘interagency consultation processes.’ These regulations ‘implement section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.’
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soliciting public comment on a proposed regulation which 'provides that, for the science pivotal to its significant regulatory actions, [the Environmental Protection Agency] will ensure that the data and models underlying the science is publicly available in a manner sufficient for validation and analysis' by any third party. The intention of this regulation is 'to strengthen the transparency of EPA regulatory science.' The EPA is particularly looking for comments on a variety of details related to how such a regulation can 'best be promulgated and implemented in light of existing law and prior Federal policies that already require increasing public access to data and influential scientific information used to inform federal regulation.'
"The National Marine Fisheries Service announces its intention to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to evaluate potential environmental effects associated with continued implementation of the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP). In addition, this PEIS will address changes to increase efficiencies made in the program since the initial MMHSRP PEIS was published in 2009. These updates include changes to the Best Practices for Marine Mammal Stranding Response, Rehabilitation and Release (Policies and Practices), as well as other aspects of the program including large whale entanglement response, health surveillance, research, morbidity and mortality investigations, and assessments." There is a scoping process "to identify public concerns along with national and local issues to be addressed in the PEIS". Comments can be submitted or interested individuals may attend a webinar (May 1, 15, and 21). There is also an in-person meeting in Silver Spring, MD on May 18th.
One goal of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) is 'to ensure that stocks of marine mammals in waters under U.S. jurisdiction do not experience a level of human-caused mortality and serious injury that is likely to cause the stock to be reduced below its optimum sustainable population level.' To accomplish this goal, the National Marine Fisheries Service is required to prepare a Stock Assessment Report. 'The Washington sea otter [Stock Assessment Report] was last revised in August 2008. The Washington sea otter is not a strategic stock, thus the National Marine Fisheries Service is required to review the stock assessment at least once every 3 years. The Service reviewed the Washington sea otter [Stock Assessment Report] in 2011 and concluded that a revision was not warranted because the status of the stock had not changed, nor could it be more accurately determined. However, upon review in 2016, the Service determined that revision was warranted because of changes in population estimates and distribution.' The draft Stock Assessment Report is available for public review and comment.
The National Marine Fisheries Service announces its intent to conduct 5-year status reviews for the endangered fin whale, the endangered gray whale (Western North Pacific distinct population segment), and the endangered sei whale under the Endangered Species Act. The National Marine Fisheries Service requests submission of information on the above listed whale species. Specifically, they seek information on the status, threats, and recovery of the species that has become available since the previous status review for the fin whale in 2011, the gray whale Western North Pacific distinct population segment in 1991, and the sei whale in 2012. This information helps ensure that the 5-year reviews are based on the best scientific and commercial data available at the time.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is requesting comment on the Draft Proposed Program for the 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management 'is also announcing its decision to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Program,' and is initiating 'the formal scoping process.' The new 2019-2024 Program is a key aspect of the implementation of the America-First Offshore Energy Strategy (E.O. 13795). The Proposed 2019-2024 Program 'would make more than 98 percent of the [outer continental shelf] resources available to consider for oil and gas leasing during the 2019-2024 period.' Comments received during this scoping period will help 'determine the appropriate content and scope for a focused and balanced programmatic environmental analysis by ensuring significant issues are identified early and properly studied during development' of the Environmental Impact Statement. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management 'expects to consider environmentally sensitive areas... that could be considered for exclusion.'
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is 'initiating a 5-year status review of the Alaska-breeding population of Steller's eider under the Endangered Species Act.' 'A 5-year status review is based on the best scientific and commercial data available at the time of the review; therefore, U.S. Fish and Wildlife is requesting submission of any new information on the species that has become available since the last review of the species.' The US Fish and Wildlife Service is specifically requesting information on: (1) the biology of the species, (2) habitat conditions, (3) conservation measures, (4) threat status and trends, and (5) other new information, data, or corrections.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a `12-month finding on a petition to list the Panama City crayfish, a semi-terrestrial crayfish species native to Bay County, Florida, as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.' They have reviewed 'the best available scientific and commercial information' and found that 'listing this species is warranted.' The US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the Panama City crayfish as a threatened species. If this rule is finalized, the crayfish would be added to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are requesting comments or information specifically regarding '(1) the Panama City crayfish's biology, range, and population trends, (2) factors that may affect the continued existence of the species, which may include habitat modification or destruction, overutilization, disease, predation, the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, or other natural or manmade factors, (3) biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning any threats (or lack thereof) to this species and existing regulations that may be addressing those threats, (4) additional information concerning the historical and current status, range, distribution, and population size of this species, including the locations of any additional populations of this species, and (5) specific prohibitions and exceptions to those prohibitions that may be necessary and advisable for the Panama City crayfish's conservation.'
The National Marine Fisheries Service has received a 'petition to identify the Northwest Atlantic subpopulation of the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) as a Distinct Population Segment and list it as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.' The National Marine Fisheries Service found 'that the petitioned action may be warranted' and is 'hereby initiating a status review of the leatherback turtle to determine whether the petitioned action is warranted.' To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, the National Marine Fisheries Service is soliciting scientific and commercial information pertaining to the leatherback turtle from any interested party.
The U.S. Global Change Research Program is calling for public comment on a third-order draft of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (Vol. II). The second volume of the National Climate Assessment “summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future” (GlobalChange.gov). The Assessment reviews information specific to different regions of the United States, 'while also evaluating climate change impacts, risks, and adaptation on 17 national-level topics.
Chapter 2: Our Changing Climate; Chapter 8: Coastal Effects; Chapter 9: Oceans & Marine Resources; Chapter 24: Northwest Region
The state of Oregon is requesting authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service 'to intentionally take, by lethal methods, individually identifiable California sea lions in the Willamette River that are having a significant negative impact on the recovery of Upper Willamette River steelhead and Chinook salmon,' both of which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 'This authorization is requested as part of a larger effort to protect and recover listed salmonid stocks in the Willamette River basin.' The National Marine Fisheries Service 'has determined that the application contains sufficient information to warrant establishing a Pinniped-Fishery Interaction Task Force, which will be established after the closing of a public comment period.' Public comments are requested only 'on the state's application, other relevant information related to pinniped predation on salmonids in the Willamette River, and nominations for potential members of a Pinniped-Fishery Interaction Task Force.'