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WASHINGTON, May 11 - The Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unveiled a new work plan that it says will “allow the agency to focus its resources on the species most in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).”
The work plan was prepared in a consolidated case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as part of a proposed settlement with one of the agency’s most frequent plaintiffs, Wild Earth Guardians. If approved by the Court, the plan will enable the agency to review and address the needs of more than 250 species now on the list of candidates for protection under the ESA to determine if they should be added to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. The agency will have six years to complete the review.
In the last four years, the Service has been petitioned to list more than 1,230 species, nearly as many species as have been listed since the ESA was first enacted in 1973. The ESA currently protects more than 1,300 species in the U.S. and about 570 species abroad
“In the more than 35 years since its passage, the Endangered Species Act has proved to be a critical safety net for America’s imperiled fish, wildlife, and plants,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes in an agency statement. “For the first time in years, this work plan will give the wildlife professionals of the Fish and Wildlife Service the opportunity to put the needs of species first and extend that safety net to those truly in need of protection, rather than having our workload driven by the courts. It will also give states, stakeholders, and the public much-needed certainty.”
Under the work plan announced Tuesday, the Service laid out a schedule for making listing determinations for species that have been identified as candidates for listing, as well as for a number of species that have been petitioned for protection under the ESA. If agreed to by the Court, this plan will enable the Service to again prioritize its workload based on the needs of candidate species, while also providing state wildlife agencies, stakeholders, and other partners clarity and certainty about when listing determinations will be made.
A candidate species is one for which the agency has determined that a proposal to list is warranted. The Service maintains a Candidate List that is reviewed annually.
If the Service determines that listing is warranted for a species, the agency will propose that species for listing and allow the public to review and comment on the proposal before making a final determination. A list of these candidate species is available at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/improving_ESA/listing_workplan.html