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.'
The National Marine Fisheries Service proposes 'to designate critical habitat for the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) distinct population segment by designating waters from the 45-meter (m) depth contour to the 3200-m depth contour around the main Hawaiian Islands from Niihau east to Hawaii.' The proposal lists areas within these waters that would be excluded from the critical habitat designation because of large economic and national security impacts. Critical habitat is required to be designated by Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act. The Fisheries Service is 'soliciting comments on all aspects of the proposal, including information on the economic, national security, and other relevant impacts' and 'will consider additional information received prior to making a final designation.'
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 'announce a 12-month finding on a petition to list three species, the holiday darter (Etheostoma brevirostrum), the trispot darter (Etheostoma trisella), and the bridled darter (Percina kusha),' as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. All three species are freshwater fish native to Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. 'After review of the best available scientific and commercial information,' the US Fish and Wildlife Service propose listing the trispot darter, but not the holiday and bridled darters. 'Accordingly, [the US Fish and Wildlife Service] propose to list the trispot darter as a threatened species... If we finalize this rule as proposed, it would add the trispot darter to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and extend the Act's protections to the species.'
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 'announce a 12-month finding on a petition to list the candy darter (Etheostoma osburni) as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, and to designate critical habitat.' The candy darter is a freshwater fish species from Virginia and West Virginia. 'After review of the best available scientific and commercial information, [the US Fish and Wildlife Service] find that listing the candy darter is warranted,' and propose to add the candy darter as a threatened species to the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Finalizing this proposal will extend the protections of the Endangered Species Act to the candy darter.
‘The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator and Region 10 Regional Administrator are requesting public comment on this proposal to withdraw the EPA Region 10 July 2014 Proposed Determination. The 2014 Determination would have restricted the use of certain waters in the [Bristol Bay watershed] in southwest Alaska as disposal sites for dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble deposit, a copper-, gold-, and molybdenum-bearing ore body. The EPA agreed to initiate this proposed withdrawal process as part of a May 11, 2017 settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership, whose subsidiaries own the mineral claims to the Pebble deposit. The EPA is accepting comments from the public on the rationale for the proposed withdrawal.’ The EPA is specifically asking for comment on (1) 'whether to withdraw the July 2014 Proposed Determination at this time for reasons provided' in the Federal Register; and (2) 'if a final withdrawal decision is made following this comment period, whether the Administrator should review and reconsider the withdrawal decision.'
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army published the Clean Water Rule: Definition of `Waters of the United States' (short summary of primary impacts here). The agencies now propose to replace the 2015 definition of 'waters of the United States,' and reinstate the definition of 'waters of the United States' that 'existed prior to the 2015 rule, to reflect the current legal regime under which the agencies are operating.' This is in compliance with the February 28, 2017 Executive Order: Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the `Waters of the United States' Rule. Changing the definition of 'waters of the United States' changes the waters which fall under the provisions of the Clean Water Act.
*The EPA released a pre-publication of a notice extending the comment period for this proposed rule from August 28th, 2017, to September 27th, 2017.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is announcing its 'intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement... in order to assess the impacts of issuing annual catch limits for the subsistence harvest of bowhead whales by Alaska Natives from 2019 onward.' A notice of aboriginal subsistence whale hunting catch limits and any limitations on such hunting is published annually in the Federal Register. Annual catch limits are based on IWC Scientific Committee advice on the sustainability of proposed catch limits using a population model. The subsistence hunt itself is directly managed by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. The National Marine Fisheries Service is initiating the official scoping period for the above Environmental Impact Statement; public comments submitted during the scoping period will 'help identify issues and alternatives to be considered.'
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing to revise the (1) Recovery Plan Preparation and Implementation Priorities, and (2) Recovery Plans contained in the 1990 Listing and Recovery Priority Guidelines. The need for revision has arisen through NMFS' application of the 1990 procedures, which contain vague definitions and lack sufficient detail regarding factors that should be considered when evaluating threats and recovery potential. NMFS reports that these revisions will better prioritize limited agency resources to advance the recovery of threatened and endangered species guided by the immediacy of the species' overall extinction risk, extent of information regarding major threats, and certainty that management or protective actions can be implemented successfully. Revisions include increasing the number of species priority numbers from 12 to 24, and introducing general principles for prioritizing recovery plan development and implementation.
* The National Marine Fisheries Service issued a notice on June 30, 2017 which extended the comment period from June 30, 2017 to August 28, 2017.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced that a petition to list ten species of giant clam as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act presented substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted for seven of the ten giant clam species (Hippopus hippopus, H. porcellanus, Tridacna costata, T. derasa, T. gigas, T. squamosa, and T. tevoroa). The petition also requested that critical habitat be designated for the Tridacninae species that occur in US waters. In accordance with the Endangered Species Act, NMFS will initiate status reviews of these seven giant clam species. To ensure that the status reviews are comprehensive, NMFS is soliciting scientific and commercial information regarding these species.