Federal agencies revise regulations concerning Endangered Species Act petitions

Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (Services) finalized changes to the process by which species are petitioned for listing, delisting, or reclassification under the Endangered Species Act. The regulations also describe the process by which a petitioner may request revisions to critical habitat designations under the Act.

The agencies state that their “revisions to the regulations clarify and enhance the procedures by which the Services evaluate petitions under section 4(b)(3) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended. These revisions will also maximize the efficiency with which the Services process petitions, making the best use of available resources” (81 FR 66462).

The final revisions to ESA listing petition regulations require petitioners to notify each state wildlife agency in which the species occurs at least 30 days before submitting the petition to the Services. This change will provide states an opportunity to submit pertinent information on petitioned species in time to inform the Services’ review.

The revised regulations also set a limit of only one species per petition. A petition may still address any members of a single species as defined by the ESA, including the full species and one or more subspecies or varieties. For vertebrate species, this includes one or more distinct population segment.

These and other aspects of the new regulations are described in the final rule which appeared in the September 27, 2016 issue of the Federal Register (81 FR 66462 – 66486). The regulation will go into effect on October 27, 2016.