The effects of the partial Federal government shutdown are being felt at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”). The shutdown has virtually halted the Service’s processing of pending rulemakings under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). As an example, while the comment period on the Service’s proposed designation of 370 miles of critical habitat for the endangered candy darter (Etheostoma osburni) — a freshwater fish found in portions of West Virginia and Virginia — ran from November to January, the Service has posted only a handful of responsive comments online, with the online regulations site, regulations.gov, having ceased updates due to a lapse in funding. Similarly, the Environmental Conservation Online System, a site providing information on endangered and threatened species that are either listed under the ESA or proposed for listing that is hosted by the Service, is now offline. According to the Service’s Contingency Plan, the majority of the Service’s employees have been furloughed.
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