On December 5, 2014 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) released its Fiscal Year 2014 Threatened and Endangered Species Candidate list. Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), when the USFWS either receives a petition from a third party to list a species as threatened or endangered, or when the USFWS decides of its own accord to evaluate a species for listing, it is required to issue a 90 day finding on the potential listing, and then a 12-month finding, followed by a determination on the species’ status. Forty species received final listing decisions this year. USFWS may delay a listing decision on a species if it finds that the listing of a species is “warranted but precluded” by other, higher-priority species. This year, USFWS reviewed 146 candidate species.
When reviewing candidate species for listing, USFWS gives each species a listing priority number (LPN) based on the magnitude and imminence of threats to the species’ continued existence. LPNs range from 1 to 12, with 1 being the highest priority, and 12 being the lowest priority for listing. Priorities have three categories for taxonomic status: species that are the sole member of a genus; full species (where the genus has more than one species); and subspecies or distinct population segments (DPS) of vertebrate species. The list released by USFWS recognized 23 species that are new candidates for listing, including one bird (the Ma’oma’o (Gymnomyza samoensis)) native to American Samoa, eighteen flowering plants native to one or more Hawaiian islands, and four ferns native to one or more Hawaiian islands. All of the new candidate species received an LPN of 2 or 3. One bird species, the Sprague’s pipit (Anthus spragueii), received a revised LPN based on a decreased magnitude of threats and overall stability of its population, and was accordingly downgraded from LPN 8 to LPN 11. The Packard’s milkvetch (Astragalus cusickii var. packardiae) was removed from the candidate species list based on the species’ positive response to a 2013 Bureau of Land Management decision to permanently close 5,620 acres within and near Packard’s milkvetch habitat to off highway vehicle use, eliminating the largest threat to the species from 68% of its occurrences.
Of the species that retained “warranted but precluded” findings, USFWS anticipates publishing a listing determination for 27 species within the next year. The deadlines for listing determinations on these 27 species are imposed either by court order or a settlement agreement. Notably, the Columbia Basin DPS of Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) was not included in the number of species expecting listing determinations within the next 12 months, though USFWS will continue to monitor the status of the DPS. A number of already listed species received petitions for reclassification from threatened to endangered. USFWS found that reclassification of one population (North Cascades ecosystem population) of Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus), and Pariette Cactus (Sclerocactus brevispinus) from threatened to endangered was warranted but precluded by the current work on new candidate species. USFWS found that reclassification was not warranted for two other populations of Grizzly Bear.
For the species that remain candidates for listing, USFWS is soliciting any additional or updated information on an ongoing basis.