The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have issued listing decisions on a number of species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in recent days, and USFWS has announced notable changes in its recovery strategy for the red wolf.
- On September 7, 2016, USFWS reopened the comment period for its proposed rule to remove the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) from the list of threatened species. The initial proposed rule emphasized that the States of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho needed to promulgate regulations managing human-caused mortality of grizzly bears before USFWS would proceed to a final rule, and such state mechanisms have recently been finalized.
- On September 7, 2016, NMFS issued a final rule identifying 14 distinct population segments (DPSs) of the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Prior to this rulemaking, the species had been globally listed as endangered. In response to petitions filed by Hawaii Fishermen’s Alliance for Conservation and Tradition, Inc. and the State of Alaska, USFWS initiated a status review of the species. With this final rule, USFWS divides the humpback whale into 14 DPSs, removes the global endangered listing, and in its place lists four DPSs as endangered and one DPS as threatened. The remaining nine DPSs are determined to not warrant listing at this time.
- On September 9, 2016, USFWS proposed to list the Guadalupe fescue (Festuca ligulata)—a plant species from the Chihuahuan Desert of west Texas and Mexico—as an endangered species.
- On September 13, 2016, USFWS issued a final rule listing the white fringeless orchid (Platanthera integrilabia) as threatened. The species is found in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
- On September 12, 2016, USFWS announced significant changes to its red wolf (Canis rufus) recovery program, which has involved captive breeding and reintroduction of the species in eastern North Carolina as a non-essential experimental population. Following a two-year evaluation of the red wolf recovery program and consideration of new scientific information, USFWS has decided to: (1) secure the captive population of red wolves by doubling that population; (2) determine where potential new sites exist for introduction of additional experimental populations by October 2017; (3) revise the existing experimental population rule to apply to fewer packs within a more restricted range; and (4) complete a status review for the red wolf by October 2017.