Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Obama admin narrows planned overhaul of petition process

The Obama administration yesterday afternoon scaled back a sweeping proposal to change the way members of the public can formally ask the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service to review the status of animals or plants under the Endangered Species Act. When they were proposed last year, the changes -- which the services claimed would make the petition process more efficient, collaborative and transparent -- were cheered by Republicans, industry groups and states but criticized by some conservationists (Greenwire, May 19, 2015). After considering feedback from the public and stakeholder groups, however, the services have decided to make the draft rule more favorable to conservation organizations, which file the vast majority of the petitions. "These revisions reduce some of the burdens the initial proposal placed on petitioners, yet retain the proposed improvements to the quality of incoming petitions and ensure better working partnerships with states, which are critical in conserving America's imperiled species," FWS Director Dan Ashe said in a statement. Specifically, the new revisions simplify the original proposal that petitioners coordinate with states. Petitioners would now be required to send a notification letter to the state wildlife agency in each state where the species resides at least 30 days before submitting the petition to FWS or NMFS. But the services removed the initial requirement for petitioners to certify that they have provided all relevant information on a species, which many conservationists had characterized as an unreasonably high bar...more

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