A recent federal court decision has invalidated the listing of the lesser prairie chicken. A key reason for the court’s decision was that the Fish and Wildlife Service made an assumption that if it didn’t list the species, it would reduce the incentive for participation in a conservation plan. The judge didn’t think that was a valid assumption. The Forest Service seems determined to prove him wrong.
Under the 2012 Planning Rule, the Forest Service has the opportunity to help forestall the need to list species under ESA by identifying them as species of conservation concern and including protective plan components for them. The wolverine received a positive 90-day finding that listing should be considered, but the FWS ultimately decided not to. In response, the three forest plan revision efforts that are proceeding under the 2012 Rule and have wolverine habitat (Nez Perce-Clearwater, Flathead, Helena-Lewis & Clark) have determined that the wolverine should not be identified as a species of conservation concern.
The FWS will be looking for evidence their assumption was correct. The lesser prairie chicken may have the Forest Service to thank when it eventually gets listed. (And the wolverine, too.)