The Endangered Species Act is an environmental law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Nixon on December 28, 1973.
The ESA was enacted to prevent the extinction of imperiled plant and animal life, and to recover and maintain those populations by removing or lessening threats to their survival, including threats to their habitat.
The Act is administered by two federal agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
A species will be considered for listing under the ESA, if it meets any of the criteria under Section 4(a)(1).
Criteria for Listing (Section 4(a)(1))
1. Present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the species’ habitat or range.
2. Overutilization of the species for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes.
3. Decline because of disease or predation.
4. Inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.
5. Natural or man made factors affecting the species’ continued existence.
Species can be listed in two ways: (1) a direct listing by the FWS or NOAA through its candidate assessment program OR (2) an individual or organizational petition to the FWS or NOAA to list the species.
After receiving a petition for listing, the agencies go through a rule-making process with each step published in the Federal Register. Public notice is given through media and also communicated to state and county agencies within the species’ area. Public hearing is mandatory if anyone requests it within 45 days of the published notice.
“The purpose of the notice and comment requirement is to provide for meaningful public participation in the rule-making process.” Idaho Farm Bureau Federation v. Babbitt, 58 F.3d 1392 (9th Cir. 1995).
Several factors are considered in delisting the species:
- whether the threats are eliminated or controlled
- population size and growth
- stability of habitat quality and quantity
- inaccurate data that put species on the list
“Downlisting” may also occur if the threats have been controlled and the species’ population has met recovery goals. The species then reclassified as “threatened” instead of “endangered.”
PLPCO actively responds to proposals under the ESA to list or delist species. We coordinate the State’s response with other affected state agencies and submit unified comments.
Since 2012, we have participated in preparing Utah’s Conservation Plan for Greater Sage-Grouse. This initiative is a result of the 2010 FWS’s decision to list Greater Sage-Grouse as endangered, with the actual listing deferred until 2015 based on greater needs of other species. We have reviewed the BLM’s Utah Greater Sage-Grouse Draft Land Use Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement that was available for public comment from November 1, 2013 to January 29, 2014.
We have published comment letters on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed rule to list the distinct population segment of the North American wolverine as endangered, proposed delisting of the gray wolf, and maintaining endangered species status for the Mexican wolf.