The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today 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 (ESA). Three species have been removed from candidate status, two have been added, and nine have a change in priority from the last review conducted in 2011.
One candidate species removal is Idaho’s unusual and stunningly beautiful Christ’s paintbrush (Castilleja christii). Christ’s paintbrush is found on the U.S. Forest Service’s Sawtooth National Forest, high atop Mt. Harrison in the Albion Mountains.
Occurring only in a very small 200-acre area at the Mt. Harrison summit, Christ’s paintbrush’s existence was threatened by destruction and modification of its habitat, including invasion by the perennial plant smooth brome, off-highway vehicle use, trespass livestock, and recreational activities.
After being listed as a candidate species, innovative conservation efforts were established, including paintbrush seedling propagation and volunteer plantings. Habitat improvement projects such as smooth brome eradication and off-road/trail closures helped paintbrush increase at Mt. Harrison. Additionally, recent research conducted by Boise State University has demonstrated that hybridization with nearby paintbrush species is not a factor.
The Forest Service’s long-term commitment to conservation is further demonstrated by its monitoring program and extension of its 2005 Candidate Conservation Agreement with the Service through the year 2022.
Successful research, management techniques, habitat restoration, monitoring, public education and other conservation actions have ameliorated most of the previously known threats to this plant. Christ’s paintbrush is stable throughout a large portion of its range now at high numbers, which means it no longer meets the definition of a species in need of ESA protection.
The Service’s Idaho State Supervisor, Brian T. Kelly, said, “The Sawtooth National Forest has worked with the Service, universities and many other partners to conserve the plant. This is a great Idaho conservation success story, and we thank all who have worked for years to achieve it.”
The Service’s Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office is responsible for several other candidate species that partners are working together to achieve conservation success, including the southern Idaho ground squirrel and Packard’s milkvetch. For more information about the Service’s Idaho conservation success stories about these species and their habitats, and those who helped, please visit www.fws.gov/idaho/SuccessStories.htm.
The Pacific Region has 89 candidate species, including the greater sage-grouse, North American wolverine, yellow-billed cuckoo, the Great Basin population of the Columbia spotted frog, Goosecreek milkvetch, white bark pine, the Oregon Coast population of red tree vole and seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees. The only change with this Candidate Notice of Review is to the Goosecreek milkvetch, which occurs in Utah, Idaho and Nevada on 80% federal (BLM) lands. Its Listing Priority Number (LPN) changed from 5 to a 2 (higher priority need), due to increasing threats throughout a large portion of its range.
Candidate species are plants and animals for which the Service has enough information on their status and the threats they face to propose them as threatened or endangered, but developing a proposed listing rule is precluded by the need to address other higher priority listing actions. Candidate species 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 of conservation, allowing them to address threats and work to preclude the need to list the species. The Service is currently working in partnership with many other agencies and entities to implement voluntary conservation agreements covering 5 million acres of habitat for more than 130 candidate species.
Nationally, there are now 192 species recognized by the Service as candidates for ESA protection, the lowest number in more than 12 years. This reduction reflects the 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 its implementation, this agreement has significantly reduced litigation-driven workloads and allowed the agency to protect 25 candidate species under the ESA, and propose protection for 91 candidate species. The agreement will continue to allow the agency to focus its resources on the species most in need of the ESA’s protections over the next five years,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.
“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,” said Director Ashe. “Our ultimate goal is to have the smallest Candidate List possible, by addressing the needs of species before they require ESA protection and extending the ESA’s protections to species that truly need it.”
Ashe noted that the work plan will enable the agency to systematically review and address the needs of every species on the 2011 candidate list – a total of more than 250 unique species – over a period of six years to determine if they should be added to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.
The Service is soliciting additional information on the candidate species, as well as information on other species that may warrant protection under the ESA. This information will be valuable in preparing listing documents and future revisions or supplements to the candidate notice of review.
The Service also 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 Agreements (CCAs), formal agreements between the Service and one or more public or private parties to address the conservation needs of proposed or candidate species, or species likely to become candidates, before they actually become listed as endangered or threatened. CCA participants voluntarily commit to implementing specific actions removing or reducing the threats to these species, thereby contributing to stabilizing or restoring the species. Through 110 CCAs, habitat for more than 100 species is managed on federal, state, local agency, tribal and private lands; many CAAs have multiple cooperators focusing conservation actions in an area supporting a single or multiple species.
Another similar tool is the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAAs). 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 on non-Federal lands. More than 71 landowners in 18 states have enrolled in CCAAs that cover over 1 million acres of habitat for 41 species.
The complete notice and list of proposed and candidate species appears in the Federal Register and can be found online at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/cnor.html.