Recent Endangered Species Act news of interest

These could all have some implications for national forest management (except I think the last one is just about trees – and climate change).

A federal district court ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue an overdue status report assessing how threatened grizzly bears in the Lower 48 are doing. This resolves one claim in the Center for Biological Diversity’s ongoing lawsuit that challenges the Trump administration’s failure to update the federal recovery plan for grizzly bears.

Environmental groups have sued the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for producing an inadequate recovery plan for the threatened species. They have directly implicated national forest planning which must “contribute to recovery” of listed species: “You can see where weaker recovery standards are leading to weaker forest plans,” Montgomery said. “It’s not trickling down but is cascading down. It’s really important for recovery plans to be a road map.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Endangered Species Act protections for West Coast populations of the Pacific fisher. The move drew criticism from conservation groups that say loopholes allow for continued logging of the fisher’s habitat.  “The exemptions to their protection are fuzzier than fishers themselves.”

The yellow cedar, a tree native to Southeast Alaska and culturally significant to Alaska Native communities, was denied protected status under the Endangered Species Act. Warmer temperatures are reducing the amount of snow in areas where the cedar grows and that is leaving the tree’s roots exposed to subzero temperatures, which kills the trees.

WildEarth Guardians filed a suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, challenging its decision not to list the Joshua tree as a threatened species. They claim climate change is the major reason why the tree should be listed.

6 thoughts on “Recent Endangered Species Act news of interest”

  1. Jon, as our resident ESA expert, when WEG says
    “In making this determination, the Service disregarded climate models showing the range of suitable habitat for the Joshua tree has contracted since the early 1900s due to increasing summer temperatures,” WildEarth Guardians states in its complaint. “The Service further summarily dismissed distribution models cited in Guardians’ petition showing that up to 90 percent of Joshua tree habitat will likely become unsuitable for the trees by the end of this century without rapid action to address climate change.”
    does it matter if models predict other areas would become suitable for the trees?

    • It would be interesting to see the Service’s justification for their determination. I would guess that it hinges on the definnition of “foreseeable future”. From everything that I’ve seen, climate models’ predictions of the year 2100 are not considered “foreseeable future” at this time.

      Endangered and Threatened species listing is for current or directly foreseeable threats, not for something that may happen by the year 2100.

  2. I thought Conor might be right, and there have been recent regulatory changes that more conservatively define “foreseeable future,” but they actually went out to 2100:
    “We evaluated environmental conditions and threat factors acting on the two species into the future (approximately 80 years) and developed two future scenarios to assist in determining the potential future conditions for the two species. Because the two species are long-lived, have such large ranges and distributions, mostly occur on Federal land, and occupy numerous ecological settings, we have determined that future stochastic and catastrophic events would not lead to population- or species-level declines in the foreseeable future.”
    (“… the current conditions of the two species still provide for enough resiliency, redundancy, and representation despite the identified threats acting on them.” “The primary stressors to Joshua trees include wildfire, invasive plants, effects of climatic changes, and habitat loss.”)

    Regarding Sharon’s hypothetical, the governing standard is for listing decisions to be based on the “best scientific and commercial data.” I assume that if successful species migration could be demonstrated, that would be relevant to whether it is “in danger of extinction.”

    • But if the Joshua Trees don’t yet feel the need to migrate, as the climate hasn’t changed enough, then how could their ability possibly be demonstrated?
      So on one hand, “because the two species are long-lived, have such large ranges and distributions, mostly occur on Federal land, and occupy numerous ecological settings” they are not endangered , and on the other hand the list of stressors, “wildfire, invasive plants, climate change and habitat loss” might be applied to any tree species. What a strange disagreement to be settled in court!

      • I think ESA resolves that uncertainty in favor of the species if the science doesn’t/can’t support migration that is necessary for species survival.

  3. I am opposed to the reintroduction of Grizzly Bears into any park in the United States. This species poses a potential threat to people unless you plan to close the parks to humans as well as protect animals and people who share park boundaries.

    The effort to eliminate Grizzley Bears was to protect people and livestock. That goal should still be a major consideration.


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