On March 11, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) released a final delisting rule, a proposed delisting rule, and a notice of a draft recovery plan.  Each of these is discussed in the order in which they appear in the Federal Register.

First, the Service issued a final rule removing the Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus), affectionately referred to as the “Teddy bear,” from the list of endangered and threatened species.  Based on the black bear’s recovery, the rule also removes the American black bear (Ursus americanus), which was previously listed due to its similarity in appearance to the Louisiana subspecies, from the list of threatened and endangered species, and removes the critical habitat designation for the black bear.  According to the Service, its decision to remove the black bear is based on its protection from overharvest under state laws, a greater understanding of the genetic exchange between black bear populations, and the fact that black bear populations have increased despite a number of vehicular collision-related deaths.  The Final Rule becomes effective on April 11, 2016.

Second, the Service issued a proposed rule to remove the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Population of grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) from the list of threatened and endangered species.  In the proposed rule, the Service notes that the Greater Yellowstone grizzly population was originally listed as a distinct population segment, but that the population has nearly tripled in size since it was listed in 1975.  Based on the grizzly’s sheer growth in population size and the significant decrease in threats to the grizzly, the Service has proposed to remove it from the list of threatened and endangered species.  The Service is accepting comments on its proposed action until May 10, 2016, and will be conducting two public hearings – one in Cody, Wyoming on April 11, 2016, and one in Bozeman, Montana on April 12, 2016 – before issuing a final rule.

Finally, the Service announced its issuance of a draft recovery plan for the Central California Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense).  The Central California DPS was listed in August 2004 and the draft recovery plan is intended to address the main threats to the salamander, including habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, hybridization with non-native barred tiger salamanders, road mortality, climate change, contaminants, disease, and predation.  Contained in the draft plan are the Service’s proposed objectives and criteria for determining when the Central California DPS warrants removal from the list of threatened and endangered species.  The Service invites comments on the draft plan, and will accept comments until May 10, 2016.