U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces final methodology for prioritizing and addressing Endangered Species Act Status Reviews

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced its final methodology for how it will identify and prioritize pending Endangered Species Act (ESA) status reviews, the process the agency uses to determine whether a species warrants federal protection. 

Because of petitions to list a large number of species under the Act received by the Service between 2007 and 2012, the agency has more than 500 species in line for consideration for listing under the ESA. With this new methodology, the Service will place each pending status review in one of the following five priority categories or “bins.”

1. Highest Priority: Critically Imperiled – Highest priority will be given to a species experiencing severe threat levels across a majority of its range, resulting in severe population-level impacts.

2. Strong Data Available on Species’ Status – Status reviews for which the Service currently has strong information concerning the species’ status will receive the next highest priority.

3. New Science Underway to Inform Key Uncertainties – The Service will assign species to this third bin when important emerging science on a species’ status is underway to answer key questions that may influence the petition finding and uncertainty about species’ status can be resolved in a reasonable timeframe.

4. Conservation Efforts in Development or Underway – The Service’s fourth priority will be status reviews related to species for which proactive conservation efforts by states, landowners, and stakeholders are underway or being developed. The agency will require that conservation efforts be organized and likely to reduce threats to the species.

5. Limited Data Currently Available – The fifth priority will be species for which there is little information about status and threats available to inform a petition finding.

The Service plans to put this methodology in place immediately in order to prioritize upcoming status reviews and to develop the agency’s National Listing Workplan.

The methodology is described in the July 27, 2016 issue of the Federal Register (81 FR: 49248 – 49255).