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Springsnail | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Nation’s endangered species number at 12-year low; future candidates for protection

WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Wednesday, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service released its Candidate Notice of Review, a yearly appraisal of the current status of plants and animals considered candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Three species have been removed, two have been added and nine have had a change in priority (five that increased and four that decreased) since the last review in October 2011. The complete list of proposed and candidate species can be found online.

The species removed from the list are the Elongate Mud Meadow Springsnail, Christ’s Paintbrush and Bog Asphodel. Based on protections for almost all existing sites, identification of additional sites and updated information on threats, the Bog Asphodel no longer needs the protection of the ESA. Efforts by the Bureau of Land Management for the Springsnail fully addressed the threats from recreational and livestock use of the springs where the snail exists. Also, three additional populations of the Springsnail and been discovered, making the species less vulnerable than previously thought. The United States Forest Service has successfully implemented numerous conservation actions for Christ’s Paintbrush that have ameliorated most of the previously known threats and established long-term monitoring programs to document their effectiveness on conservation actions. There is a long-term commitment by the Forest Service to continue implementing conservation actions for this species.

The new candidate species are the Peñasco Least Chipmunk, found in New Mexico, and the Cumberland Arrow Darter, found in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Candidate species are plants and animals for which the Fish and Wildlife Service has enough information on their status and the threats they face to propose them as threatened or endangered. They do not receive protection under the ESA, although the Service works to conserve them. The annual review and identification of candidate species provides landowners and resource managers notice of species in need, allowing them to address threats and work to preclude the need to list the species as endangered. The Service is currently working with landowners and partners to implement voluntary conservation agreements covering approximately 5 million acres of habitat for over 130 candidate species.

The Service has multiple tools for protecting candidate species and their habitats, including a grants program that funds conservation projects by private landowners, states and territories. In addition, the Service can enter into Candidate Conservation Agreement with public or private parties to address the conservation needs of candidate species or species likely to become candidates before they make the list. CCA participants voluntarily commit to implementing specific actions removing or reducing the threats to these species. Through 110 CCAs, habitat for more than 100 species is managed on federal, state, local, tribal and private lands.

Another similar tool is the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances. While these voluntary agreements are only between the Service and non-federal landowners, they have the same goals as CCAs in addressing threats to candidate species, but with additional incentives for conservation actions. More than 71 landowners in 18 states have enrolled in CCAAs that cover over 1 million acres of habitat for 41 species.

There are currently 192 species recognized as candidates for ESA protection, the lowest number in more than 12 years. This reduction reflects the Fish and Wildlife Service’s successful efforts to implement a court-approved work plan that resolves a series of lawsuits concerning the agency’s ESA Listing Program. Since then, the agreement has significantly reduced litigation-driven workloads and allowed the agency to protect 25 species under the ESA and propose protection for 91 more.

The agreement will continue allowing the agency to focus its resources on the species most in need of ESA protections over the next five years, said Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe.

Ashe said that the work plan will enable the agency to systematically review and address the needs of every species on the 2011 candidate list over a period of six years to determine if they should be added to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.

“We’re continuing to keep the commitments we made under this agreement, which has enabled us to be more efficient and effective in both protecting species under the ESA as well as in working with our partners to recover species and get them off the list as soon as possible,” Ashe said. “Our ultimate goal is to have the smallest candidate list possible by addressing the needs of species before they require ESA protection and extending protection to species that truly need it.” Submitted by: United States Fish and Wildlife Service

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