The Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has unveiled a work plan that will allow the agency to focus its resources on the species most in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act. The plan was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as part of a proposed agreement with one of the agency's most frequent plaintiffs. If approved, the work plan will enable the agency to systematically 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.
"This work plan will serve as a catalyst to move past the gridlock and acrimony of the past several years, enabling us to be more efficient and effective in both getting species on the list and working with our partners to recover those species and get them off the list as soon as possible," said Acting Service Director Rowan Gould. "This is just the first step in our efforts to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species."
Under the proposed work plan, the Service has 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. Once approved, the 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 partner's clarity and certainty about when listing determinations will be made.
Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes says 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 the workload driven by the courts.