The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has 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 October of 2011.

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.

The law suits has been a maneuver by environmental activists to eliminate pesticides from the market notes CropLife America, representing chemical manufacturers, and the Agricultural Retailers Association. The activists continue to hide behind the ESA. The attacks are far from discontinued.  

“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,” said Ashe.

Ashe noted that the FWS 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 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 with landowners and partners to implement voluntary conservation agreements covering 5 million acres of habitat for more than 130 candidate species.

Strange and basically unheard of species are on the ESA candidate list. Today’s notice identifies two new candidate species: Peñasco least chipmunk (Sacramento and White Mountains, New Mexico) and Cumberland arrow darter (Kentucky and Tennessee). All candidates are assigned a listing priority number based on the magnitude and imminence of the threats they face. When adding species to the list of threatened or endangered species, the FWS addresses species with the highest listing priority first. The nine changes in priority announced in the notice are based on new information in the updated assessments of continuing candidates.

These changes include five species that increased in priority and four that lowered in priority out of the total huge list. The three species removed from the candidate list include elongate mud meadow springsnail, Christ’s paintbrush, and bog asphodel.

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.