Clarified interpretation could change U.S. Fish and Wildlife policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. 12/13/11 (PennWell) — A new federal policy will clarify which species or populations of species are eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act, according to a release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

The proposed policy will define the phrase “significant portion of its range” in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The phrase is not defined but appears in the statutory definitions of “endangered species” and “threatened species” in the ESA.

The policy would dictate that FWS and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service could list a species if it is endangered or threatened in a “significant portion of its range,” even if that species is not endangered or threatened throughout all its range.

Under the proposed policy, a portion of a species’ range would be defined as “significant” if its contribution to the viability of the species is such that, without the portion, the species would be in danger of extinction.

The goal of such an interpretation would allow ESA to protect a species before large-scale decline occurs throughout the species’ entire range, according to the release.

FWS and NOAA will accept public comment on the proposal for 60 days, beginning on the date the proposed rule’s publication appears in the Federal Register.

To submit a comment, access the Federal eRulemaking Portal at and follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS-R9-ES-2011-0031].


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