→ Proposal to list the island marble butterfly as an endangered species, and designate critical habitat

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to 'list the island marble butterfly (Euchloe ausonides insulanus) as an endangered species and designate critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act.' The potential critical habitat designation consists of '812 acres (329 hectares) on the south end of San Juan Island, San Juan County, Washington.' The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also completed 'a draft economic analysis of the proposed designation of critical habitat for the island marble butterfly', which is now available for public review.

 

→ Species Proposals for Upcoming Meeting of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

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The US Fish and Wildlife Service is requesting ‘information and recommendations on animal and plant species to be considered as candidates for US proposals to amend Appendices I and II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)’ at the upcoming 18th meeting. ‘Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction that are or may be affected by trade. Appendix II includes species that, although not necessarily now threatened with extinction, may become so unless trade in them is strictly controlled. Appendix II also includes species that must be subject to regulation in order that trade in other CITES-listed species may be brought under effective control.’ Suggested amendments submitted during this comment period ‘may concern the addition of species to Appendix I or II, the transfer of species from one Appendix to another, or the removal of species from Appendices.’

 

→ Land Management Plan Revision for Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana

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The US Forest Service is preparing a revised land management plan for the Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana. The Custer Gallatin National Forest encompasses three million acres of US National Forest Service land and seven ranger districts, including those in Yellowstone, MT and Red Lodge, MT. ‘This notice briefly describes the proposed action based on the need to change the existing forest plans, the nature of the decision to be made, and information concerning public participation.’ The full text of the proposed action can be found on the US Forest Service website. The US Forest Service is currently ‘asking for comments on the proposed action and the Regional Forester's list of species of conservation concern.'

 

 

→ Fourth National Climate Assessment

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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 6: Forests; Chapter 8: Coastal Effects; Chapter 24: Northwest Region

 

→ Proposed peak-season fee increases at National Parks

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The National Park Service is considering fee increases at highly visited national parks during peak visitor seasons. New peak season entry fees for visitors would be established at 17 national parks, with the 'peak season for each park... defined as its busiest contiguous five month period of visitation.' The new entrance fees are: $70 per vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person. Fee increases 'will generate badly needed revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure of national parks...All of the funds would be used to improve facilities, infrastructure, and visitor services, with an emphasis on deferred management projects.' A list of affected parks and their peak-season dates can be found hereThis proposal also includes entrance and permit fee adjustments for commercial tour operators, which would consist of 'increase[d] fees for commercial operators and standardize[d] commercial use authorization requirements for road-based commercial tours, including application and management fees.' 

→ Proposal to remove Astragalus desereticus (Deseret milkvetch) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are proposing to remove Astragalus desereticus (Deseret milkvetch) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the 'best available scientific and commercial data' indicate' that this species' population is much greater than was known at the time of listing in 1999' and 'that threats to [Deseret milkvetch] identified at the time of listing in 1999 are not as significant as originally anticipated and are being adequately managed. Therefore, the species no longer meets the definition of an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.' This proposal 'also serves as the [required] 12-month finding on a petition to remove this species from the List.' The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are 'seeking information, data, and comments from the public on the proposed rule to remove the Astragalus desereticus from the List.'

→ Proposed revisions to implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act by the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration

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The Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and Federal Railroad Administration are proposing revisions to the Federal Highway & Federal Transit Administrations' joint implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act and Section 4(f) requirements. The National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of major federal actions and to develop alternatives before taking the action. The proposal (1) modifies the Federal Highway & Federal Transit Administrations Environmental Impact and Related Procedures due to changes to the environmental review process made by the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act and (2) modifies the Parks, Recreation Areas, Wildlife and Waterfowl Refuges, and Historic Sites regulations according to new exceptions created by the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act. The proposal also includes the addition of the Federal Railroad Administration to the modified regulations listed above, making those regulations Federal Railroad Administration's NEPA implementing procedures and Section 4(f) implementing regulations, respectively. The agencies are requesting comments on all actions included in this proposal.

→ Environmental Impact Statement for Elk Creek Watershed Project, California

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This notice announces the intent of the US Forest Service to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Elk Creek Watershed Project 'defining the scope, goals, and actions of the project.' The Environmental Impact Statement will assess proposed vegetation treatment in approximately 10,550 acres within the 45,992 acre project boundary. Vegetation treatments include commercial and noncommercial thinning, hardwood and meadow enhancement, and fuels reduction adjacent to private property, among others. 'The purpose of the Elk Creek Watershed Project is to address the need to manage forest stands to be more resilient to future disturbances, improve water quality to maintain and restore riparian and aquatic habitat, improve terrestrial habitat for northern spotted owl and Roosevelt elk, reduce fuel accumulations, and improve the vigor and prevalence of Karuk cultural resources.' Comments on this notice should help guide the development of the Environmental Impact Statement.

→ 6-Month Extension of Final Decision on Threatened Status for the Louisiana Pinesnake

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 'announce a 6-month extension of the final determination of whether to list the Louisiana pinesnake (Pituophis ruthveni) as a threatened species' under the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service is also reopening the comment period on the proposed rule to list the species for an additional 30 days. The extension is in response to 'substantial disagreement regarding available information related to the interpretation of the available survey data used to determine the Louisiana pinesnake's status and trends.' The US Fish and Wildlife Service will submit a final listing determination to the Federal Register on or before April 6, 2018.

→ Retraction of 2015 Rule on Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands

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The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to rescind a 2015 rule entitled "Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands." The 2015 final rule 'was intended to: Ensure that wells are properly constructed to protect water supplies, make certain that the fluids that flow back to the surface as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations are managed in an environmentally responsible way, and provide public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids.' It was prepared 'in light of the public concern for and widespread use of hydraulic fracturing practices.' In March of 2017, the President published Executive Order 13783, which directed the Secretary of the Interior to review this specific rule 'for consistency with the order's objective "to promote clean and safe  development of our Nation's vast energy resources, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth and prevent job creation."' As a result of this review, the Bureau of Land Management is now 'proposing to rescind, in its entirety, the 2015 final rule.'

→ Notice of intent to prepare Environmental Impact Statement on a Federal coal lease sale in Wyoming

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The Bureau of Land Management is announcing 'its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on the potential impacts of leasing a tract of Federal coal' in the Wyoming Powder River Basin. The tract for lease is approximately 3,508 acres and is adjacent to the Antelope Mine in Campbell and Converse counties, WY. The tract is a 'maintenance tract' of Federal coal, meaning that it is 'a parcel of land containing Federal coal reserves that can be leased to maintain production at an existing mine.' The Bureau of Land Management must prepare an environmental analysis prior to holding a competitive Federal coal lease sale. This notice is part of the scoping process to identify issues or concerns that should be considered in the environmental analysis. A list of issues that have been identified in prior similar leasing actions can be reviewed here.

→ Incidental take permit for Northern and California spotted owl

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The US Fish and Wildlife intends to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on a proposed incidental take permit from Sierra Pacific Industries. The permit would allow incidental take of the federally threatened Northern spotted owl and the California spotted owl. The California spotted owl was recently petition for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The activities covered by the permit would include timber harvest and timber management that Sierra Pacific Industries conducts on its lands in the State of California. 

→ Approval of corrosion-inhibited copper shot as nontoxic for waterfowl hunting

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The United States Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed a 'review of the application materials for corrosion-inhibited copper shot,' concluding that 'this type of shot left in terrestrial or aquatic environments is unlikely to affect fish, wildlife, or their habitats.' The Fish and Wildlife Service is now proposing to 'approve the shot for hunting waterfowl and coots,' which would 'increase the nontoxic shot options for hunters.'

→ Initiation of 5-year status review of the Aleutian Shield Fern

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The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is initiating a 5-year status review of the Aleutian shield fern (Polystichum aleuticum). This 5-year status review under the Endangered Species Act is being conducted to ensure that the classification of the Aleutian shield fern as endangered on the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants is accurate. The review is an assessment of the best scientific and commercial data available at the time. The Fish and Wildlife Service is therefore requesting any information that has become available since the last review; a list of the specific information considered in the status review can be found here.

→ Revision of Mexican Wolf Draft Recovery Plan

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The US Fish and Wildlife Service has completed the first revision of their Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) Draft Recovery Plan, originally written in 1982. The Mexican wolf is currently listed as an endangered subspecies under the Endangered Species Act, and is currently found in Arizona and New Mexico (US), and in Chihuahua (MX). As of 2016, the single wild US population of Mexican wolves reached a total size of at least 113 wolves; a captive population is also managed through a binational captive-breeding program with the primary purpose of producing Mexican wolves for reintroduction.  The Mexican wolf is at risk of extinction in the wild primarily because of gunshot-related mortality, inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity, loss of adaptive potential, and small population size. The draft recovery plan includes specific recovery criteria to be met to enable us to remove this species from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is requesting review and comment on their revised plan, as well as any new information on the Mexican wolf's status throughout its range to assist in finalizing the recovery plan.

→ 5-Year Status Reviews of 23 Southeastern Fish, Wildlife and Plant Species listed as endangered or threatened

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The US Fish and Wildlife Service is initiating 5-year status reviews of 23 species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. 5-year status reviews are conducted to ensure that the classification of species as threatened or endangered on the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants is accurate. The review is an assessment of the best scientific and commercial data available at the time of the review. The Fish and Wildlife Service is therefore requesting any information that has become available since the last review of each of the following species: 

Fish / Shellfish: Cumberland darter (Etheostoma susanae), Rush darter (Etheostoma phytopilum), Vermilion darter (Etheostoma chermocki), Pygmy madtom (Noturus stanauli), Cumberland bean mussel (Villosa trabalis), Ring pink mussel (Obovaria retusa), Anthony's riversnail (Athearnia anthonyi)

Wildlife: Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi), Puerto Rican broad-winged hawk (Buteo platypterus brunnescens), Puerto Rican nightjar (Caprimulgus noctitherus)

Plants: Arabis perstellata (Braun's rock-cress), Chamaesyce deltoidea spp. deltoidea (Deltoid spurge), Clematis morefieldii (Morefield's leatherflower), Conradina verticillata (Cumberland rosemary), Galactia smallii (Small's milkpea), Lyonia truncata var. proctorii, Polygala smallii (Tiny polygala), Pityopsis ruthii (Ruth's golden aster), Sarracenia rubra ssp.alabamensis (Alabama canebrake pitcher plant), Schwalbea americana (American chaffseed), Vernonia proctorii, Adiantum vivesii

→ Withdrawal of land in Superior National Forest from mineral and geothermal leases

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This notice extends the scoping comment period for a Notice of Intent published by the Superior National Forest in January. The Notice proposed a withdrawal of approximately 234,328 acres of National Forest System (NFS) lands, for a 20-year term, within the Rainy River Watershed on the Superior National Forest from disposition under United States mineral and geothermal leasing laws, subject to valid existing rights. The purpose of the withdrawal request is protection of the natural resources and waters located on NFS lands from the potential adverse environmental impacts arising from exploration and development of fully Federally-owned minerals conducted pursuant to the mineral leasing laws within the Rainy River Watershed that flow into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Mining Protection Area in northeastern Minnesota. The USFS acknowledges this proposed request subjects these NFS lands to temporary segregation for up to 2 years from entry under the United States mineral and geothermal leasing laws. The USFS recognizes that any segregation or withdrawal of these lands will be subject to valid existing rights and therefore inapplicable to private lands owned in fee, private mineral estates, and private fractional minerals interests.

→ Draft Recovery Plan for Texas Coastal Bend Shortgrass Prairie Species

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The US Fish and Wildlife Service announce the availability of the draft Texas Coastal Bend Shortgrass Prairie Multi-Species Recovery Plan, which includes the slender rush-pea (Hoffmannseggia tenella) and South Texas ambrosia (Ambrosia cheiranthifolia). Both species are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The draft recovery plan includes specific recovery objectives and criteria that, when achieved, will enable removal of both species from the list of endangered and threatened plants. The US Fish and Wildlife Service request review and comment on this plan from local, State, and Federal agencies; tribes; and the public. They will also accept any new information on the status of the slender rush-pea and South Texas ambrosia throughout each species' range to assist in finalizing the recovery plan.

→ Notice of Rule-making to Revise Population Designation of North Carolina Red Wolves

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The US Fish and Wildlife Service is notifying the public and other agencies that they intend to begin gathering information necessary to revise the current population designation of red wolves (Canis rufus) in North Carolina. The red wolf is currently listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Today, the only population of red wolves in the wild is the non-essential experimental population established around Alligator River in North Carolina. All other individuals of this species are found in captive facilities around the country. The Service is proposing to change the goal of the current NEP project from solely that of establishing a self-sustaining wild population to a goal of also supporting viability of the captive wolves of the red wolf breeding program, meaning that the captive wolves and the NEP will be managed as one single meta-population. To do so, the Fish and Wildlife Service will be preparing a draft environmental review. This notice calls for suggestions and information on the scope of issues that need to be included in their environmental review.