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North Dakota's

Federally Listed Endangered, Threatened, and Candidate Species – 1995

Candidates For Endangered Species Act Protection

1996 Notice of Review

- Questions and Answers -

What is a candidate species?
Candidate species are those plant and animal species for which the Fish and Wildlife Service has sufficient information on their biological status and threats to propose them as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

What is the purpose of the Fish and Wildlife Service's candidate species Notice of Review?
The purpose of the Service's Notice of Review is to present an updated list of species native to the United States that are regarded as candidates for possible listing under the ESA. While there is no requirement under the ESA to publish a list of candidate species, the Service believes that it is important to advise other Federal agencies, State and Tribal governments, local governments, industry, and the public of those species that are at risk and may warrant protection under the ESA. Identification of candidate species can assist environmental planning efforts by providing advance notice of potential ESA listings. allowing resource managers to alleviate threats and thereby possibly remove the need to list these taxa. In publishing the candidate species list, the Service is also soliciting any new information that may be available on the biology, status, and distribution of these species.

This notice also identifies species that were removed from candidate status since the previous plant and animal notices of review either because they have been listed or proposed for listing, or they no longer meet the standards for candidate species. The Service will publish updated notices annually.

What protection does the ESA provide to candidate species?
Candidate species receive no statutory protection under the ESA. However, the Service encourages the formation of partnerships to conserve these species since they are by definition species that may warrant future protection under the ESA. The only statutory consideration afforded to nonlisted species is that section 7 of the ESA requires that Federal agencies informally "confer" with the Service on actions likely to jeopardize the continued existence of species that have been proposed for listing or that may destroy or modify proposed critical habitat. Unlike for listed species, where Federal agencies must formally "consult" with the Service, and are bound by the provisions of the consultation agencies have discretion for whether they accept conservation recommendations resulting from a conference.

How does the Service's Endangered Species Program protect candidate species?
An effective program for the conservation of endangered species requires a means of addressing species that have not yet been listed but that face immediate, identifiable risks. Early conservation preserves management options for recovery, reduces potential conflicts with development and other legitimate activities, and is considerably less costly. Therefore, once we determine that a species truly warrants listing under the ESA, we take advantage of opportunities to consider it in all parts of the Service's endangered species - program. For example, when Federal agencies consult with the Service under section 7 of the ESA, we often provide conservation recommendations that could minimize or avoid adverse impacts on candidate species. Under section 10, the Service encourages applicants for incidental take permits to consider candidate species in Habitat Conservation Plans. In accordance with the Service's "no surprises" policy, if applicants address candidates in HCPs as if they were listed, they are assured that they will not be subject to new restrictions if the species is subsequently listed.

Several other Service programs provide excellent opportunities for cooperative efforts on behalf of candidate species, including refuges, fisheries, migratory birds, Partners in Flight, and Partners for Wildlife. Under the Partners for Wildlife program, which works with private landowners in cooperation with other public and private interests to restore habitat on private lands, approximately 15 percent of the projects implemented in 1995 directly benefitted listed species, candidates, or other species of concern. In the west, where more opportunities exist, approximately 85 percent of the 1995 projects have improved habitat for these species. The Service is emphasizing candidate conservation through these programs more aggressively than ever in light of declining endangered species budgets. Consideration of candidates and other species of concern in these activities can reduce threats and possibly eliminate the need for listing.

How will the Fish and Wildlife Service identify new candidate species?
The only truly effective way to identify candidate species is through cooperative public and private efforts. The Service's Endangered Species specialists will work closely with staff from all of the Service's other resource programs (e.g., fisheries, refuges, migratory birds, etc.,) as well as representatives of other Federal and State natural resource agencies, Local and Tribal governments, business and industry, and other private interests to identify potential candidate species. The Service will assist its partners in prioritizing species in need of status surveys, biological research, taxonomic clarification, literature reviews and comprehensive assessments to resolve their status. When sufficient information is developed to make well documented, biologically sound determinations about the species' status, the Service's Field Offices will consider whether they meet the criteria for listing under the ESA. The Service's Field and Regional Offices will then provide recommendations for additions to the candidate list to the Service's Director, whose concurrence is necessary before a species becomes an official candidate species.

How many species are currently candidates for listing?
The 1996 notice includes 182 candidate species plus 243 species that are currently proposed for listing.

If the Service has sufficient information to know that 182 candidate species warrant protection under the ESA, why doesn't it proceed with listing?
The Service's listing program has essentially been shut down since October 1995. Since the end of Fiscal Year 1995, funding for most Service programs, including listing of endangered and threatened species, has been provided through a series of continuing resolutions that severely reduced or eliminated the funding available for the listing program. Further, each of these continuing resolutions has maintained in force an April 1995 congressional moratorium on issuing final listings or critical habitat designations. Presently, 243 species have been proposed for listing and are awaiting final determinations. When adequate appropriations are provided by the Congress for listing species and the moratorium is lifted, the Service will immediately proceed with the highest priority listing actions.

How is this Notice of Review different from previous notices?
This notice differs from previous notices of review in two ways: (1) it combines both plant and animal taxa, and (2) it no longer includes species formerly referred to as Category 2 candidate species. In previous notices, the Service maintained two categories of candidate species--Category 1 species, or those for which the Service had sufficient information to support a proposed listing, and Category 2 species, or those for which the Service had some information indicating that the species may be in trouble but not enough to determine whether listing was appropriate. Beginning with this notice, the Service will recognize as candidates for listing only species that would have been included in the former Category 1. We will no longer maintain a Category 2 list.

What about the Category 3 species that were in previous Notices of Review?
Category 3 species were those considered for listing as threatened or endangered but new information revealed the species to be extinct (Category 3A), no longer a valid taxon (Category 3B), or more abundant or widespread or less subject to threat than previously believed (Category 3C). Taxa that were placed in Category 3 were not considered candidates. The designation of Category 3 has been discontinued; however, the Service will continue to maintain its files on these species in the event that further information indicates a need for reevaluation.

Why isn't the Service continuing to maintain a list of Category 2 candidates?
There are several reasons for the Service's decision to discontinue the Category 2 list. First, it simply is not practical for the Service's Endangered Species Program to attempt to keep track of all the species in the U.S. that may be imperiled. When the Service first started publishing comprehensive lists of candidates and potential candidates, few groups were tracking species of concern. No list comparable to the Service's list existed. Now several groups track these species, including State natural resource agencies and Natural Heritage Programs, Federal land managing agencies and the Interior Department's National Biological Service, professional societies, and conservation organizations. Given the budgetary constraints the Service is facing and ever-increasing workloads, we can no longer afford to duplicate these efforts and instead can draw from these various sources. Second, the quality of the information supporting the Category 2 list varied considerably, ranging from extremely limited or old data to fairly comprehensive assessments. Also, although the lists identified over 4,000 Category 2 species, that was likely a considerable under-representation of the species that warrant review. These shortcomings undermined the credibility of the list.

Third, maintaining a list of Category 2 candidates as a component of the Endangered Species program was confusing to the public. Maintaining two classes (Category 1 and Category 2) of candidate species created the incorrect impression that there were enormous numbers of species just waiting to be added to the lists of endangered and threatened species. While the Service anticipated issuing a proposed listing only for the Category I species (now known simply as candidates), such was never the case for Category 2 species. As evidence, consider these facts: 1 ) the Service has completed formal status reviews on roughly 3,400 U.S. species and placed 960 of them on the endangered or threatened species lists; 2) for the roughly 2,400 other species--70 percent of those reviewed--the Service determined that protection under the ESA was not warranted. So the notion that a Category 2 species would ultimately wind up on the ESA list is simply false. The definition of Category 2 species emphasized that there was reason for concern about the conservation status of these taxa, but the Service lacked sufficient information to determine whether listing was warranted. The decision to discontinue the designation was made to clarify that the term "candidate species" only applies to those species the Service expects to propose for listing based on the available scientific information.

The Service has issued a variety of memoranda and other documents that state that Category 2 candidates should now be called "Species of Concern" or "Species at Risk". Is this merely a term-of-art, or is the old Category 2 list being maintained under a different name?
The Service is not maintaining a list of Category 2 species, under that name or any other name, nor is anyone maintaining a list for the Service. The terms "Species at Risk" or "Species of Concern" should be considered as terms-of-art that describe the entire realm of taxa whose conservation status may be of concern to the Service, but neither term has official status. The species in former Category 2 would generally fit this description, as would those on the Service's list of Migratory Nongame Birds of Management Concern in the United States, the American Fisheries Society's List of Protected Fishes of the United States and Canada, State lists of protected species, and species identified as imperiled or vulnerable by the State Natural Heritage Programs and The Nature Conservancy.

Why has the Service entered into a Cooperative Agreement with The Nature Conservancy to access information in their scientific database?
The Service continues to have need to assess and evaluate species for consideration as candidates, and must draw on relevant scientific information from a variety of sources. One of the most credible and comprehensive sources of information on the status of native U.S. species are the scientific databases of The Nature Conservancy and the affiliated State agency-based Natural Heritage Programs. Species status at state, national and global levels is assessed according to standard procedures and documented in these databases. These status assessments in turn draw from many information sources, including State and Federal agencies, university and museum collections and scientists, and other public and private efforts.

Most Service Field Offices already routinely consult with State Natural Heritage Programs for species status information. The Service's Washington, D.C., Endangered Species has entered into a Cooperative Agreement with the Nature Conservancy to facilitate access to portions of their central scientific databases in order to improve the Service's ability to incorporate this information into species assessments and evaluations.

For years, the public has referred to the Service's candidate lists in the course of project planning and resource development in an effort to consider species that may be rare or may be added to the endangered or threatened species lists. How will the public determine which species warrant concern?
Planners and landowners should contact the Service's Regional or Field Offices to determine any species in the project area that are listed or that the Service is reviewing for possible listing.The Service will provide lists of endangered and threatened species, proposed species, candidate species, and other species of concern to the Service. Other sources of information on rare and threatened species are the State fish and wildlife agencies and State Natural Heritage Programs.

Some Federal agencies had policies that required consideration of candidate species, which formerly included Category 1 and Category 2 species, in the course of carrying out their mandates. With elimination of an "official" Category 2 list, will the scope of these policies now be limited to only the newly defined candidate species?
No. In fact, the mandates of most Federal land managing agencies exceed those of the ESA in protecting biodiversity on their lands. The ESA is a tool to be used when species decline despite these other mandates. To enhance interagency efforts to conserve candidates and other species of concern, the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Service entered into an MOU to creates a framework for cooperation to conserve species and their habitats before they reach the point where listing may be necessary. Although the MOU was signed in January 1994, when the Service still maintained a Category 2 list, compliance with the MOU is in no way dependent upon the existence of that list. The Service coordinated with these agencies prior to its decision to discontinue the Category 2 list. They remain committed to the concept of addressing conservation needs of both candidate species and other species of concern.

What will Candidate Conservation funds be used for?
Although appropriations for the Endangered Species Program are uncertain at present the Service expects continued funding at some level for candidate conservation activities. This will be more important than ever for developing conservation agreements and implementing other measures to stabilize or improve the status of species that are awaiting protection of the ESA. Since these 1996 funds are severely restricted, they will be used solely for candidate conservation. Normally, the Service expects to direct three- fourths of its appropriation to conservation actions for candidate species and one fourth to funding status assessments for species of concern that may warrant candidate status.

What will Section 6 funds be used for?
Under section 6 of the ESA, the Service provides funds to States for conservation of native species. These funds can be used for status surveys, candidate conservation, recovery, research, monitoring, and similar activities for listed, proposed, or candidate species, or other species of concern. Just as the Service must focus its limited resources on the highest priority candidate conservation actions, the States also face restricted budgets and must prioritize their candidate conservation among other important conservation needs.

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