The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is systematically revising species recovery plans issued under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). On August 6, 2019, USFWS published three notices of availability announcing public comment periods on its draft revisions to 70 recovery plans covering 121 species across the United States.
- Revisions to 21 recovery plans covering 25 species (Southwest, Pacific Southwest, Mountain-Prairie, and Northeast Regions)
- Revisions to 21 recovery plans covering 43 species (Southeast and Midwest Regions). This notice includes revisions to the recovery plan for the endangered dusky gopher frog (Rana sevosa), the subject of recently-settled litigation relating to the USFWS’s power to designate as critical habitat for the species private property that is not presently habitable.
- Revisions to 28 recovery plans covering 53 species (Southeast, Mountain-Prairie, and Pacific Southwest Regions)
Recovery Plans are intended to guide and coordinate conservation efforts for listed species by recommending research and management actions. ESA section 4(f) requires each recovery plan to incorporate “objective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination, in accordance with the provisions of this section, that the species be removed from the list.” 16 U.S.C. § 4(f)(1)(B)(ii). The Department of the Interior has established an Agency Priority Performance Goal of 100 percent of all USFWS recovery plans having quantitative criteria for identifying when a species has recovered by September 30, 2019. As of June 2019, 70 percent of a total of 567 recovery plans contain qualitative criteria indicating when downlisting or delisting is warranted. USFWS indicated that it is unlikely to meet its goal by the fast-approaching deadline “due to the size and complexity of the task, statutory requirements to provide opportunity for the public to review and comment, and extended clearance process associated with Federal Register notices.” However, USFWS continues to issue quantitative criteria updates at a brisk pace, and Nossaman will continue to track these efforts. Our prior reporting on these efforts can be found here and here.