The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Tuesday, its final methodology for improving the way it identifies and prioritizes pending Endangered Species Act (ESA) status reviews, the scientifically rigorous process the agency uses to determine whether a species warrants federal protection. The new approach will allow the Service to be more strategic in how it addresses pending status reviews, to be more transparent in how it establishes workload priorities, and to work better with partners to conserve America’s most imperiled plants and wildlife. (Final Methodology was published in the Federal Register on 07.27.2016)
“This is just another example of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service improving the way we do business,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “This new methodology allows the Service to more effectively implement the Endangered Species Act by providing greater transparency and predictability to our partners and the public, by developing a common sense and defensible path to prioritizing pending status reviews, and by better identifying and tackling the needs of our most imperiled plants and wildlife first.”
The draft methodology was published in January 2016, and the final methodology reflects minor changes based on public comments. Improvements include clarifying language on the descriptions of bins, an explanation of possible exceptions to the prioritization methodology, and clarification of considerations used to order actions within bins.
The five prioritization bins for pending status reviews, listed in priority order, and the revisions made to the final methodology are:
1. Highest Priority ~ Critically Imperiled;
2. Strong Data Available on Species’ Status;
3. New Science Underway to Inform Key Uncertainties;
4. Conservation Efforts in Development or Underway and
5. Limited Data Currently Available
The final methodology applies only to actions that consider whether to add a species to the lists of threatened and endangered species. Actions to remove species from the lists due to recovery or other reasons are prioritized and funded separately, and remain high priorities of the agency.