Federal agencies propose changes to regulations for Endangered Species Act petitions

Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed changes to regulations concerning Endangered Species Act petitions. The Services state that the changes are intended to “improve content and specificity of petitions and to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the petitions process to support species conservation.” Several important aspects of the proposed regulations are the following.

  • Although the Services in the past have accepted multi-species petitions, they indicate that it has sometimes been “difficult to follow the logic of the petition.” Thus, the Services propose to require that petitions address only one species.
  • Petitions would be required to include literature citations specific enough to allow the Services to locate the information cited in the petition, and petitions must be accompanied by electronic or hard copies of any supporting materials (e.g., publications, maps, reports, letters from authorities) cited in the petition, or valid links to public web sites where the supporting materials can be accessed.
  • Petitioners must certify that a copy of the petition was provided to the state agency(ies) responsible for the management and conservation of fish, plant, or wildlife resources in each state where the species occurs at least 30 days prior to submission to the Service. Any data or written comments by the state agency(ies) regarding the accuracy or completeness of the petition must be appended to the petition, and submitted with the petition.
  • Petitions would be required to include certification that the petitioners have gathered all relevant information (including information that may support a negative 90-day finding) that is reasonably available, such as that available on web sites maintained by the affected states. Petitioners must clearly label this information and append it to the petition.
  • If the petitioner provides supplemental information before the initial 90-day finding is made and asks that it be considered in making a finding, the new information, along with the previously submitted information, will be treated as a new petition that supersedes the original petition. As a result, the statutory period for making a 90-day finding would be reset to begin running from the time the additional information was received.
  • Petitions failing to meet these and other proposed requirements would be rejected by the Services without issuance of a 90-day finding.

The proposed revisions appear in a proposed rule that was published in the May 21, 2015, issue of the Federal Register (80 Federal Register 29286–29296). On July 17, 2015 (80 FR 42465-42466), the Services announced that the public comment period has been extended until September 28.