Prioritization of Species for Protection: Science and Politics? Callie Carswell published an Sept. 5 High Country News article titled The Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species triage https://www.hcn.org/issues/48.15/the-fish-and-wildlife-services-endangered-species-triage
As described in the article, since its early years, UFWS has been unable to keep up with the number of petitions to protect species. Groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity have petitioned for hundreds of species at a time. USFWS in its discussion of its new prioritization scheme describes the problem from their perspective in the Federal Register at https://www.fws.gov/policy/library/2016/2016-17818.pdf as follows:
“As a result of petitions to list a large number of species under the Act received between 2007 and 2012, our workload requires us to complete more than 500 status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings on those petitions…. This methodology is intended to allow us to address the outstanding workload of status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings strategically as our resources allow and to provide transparency to our partners and other stakeholders as to how we establish priorities within our workload into the future.
The revised 5 priority levels are described as follows in a USFWS document at https://www.fws.gov/endangered/improving_esa/listing_workplan_prioritization_methodology.html
1: Highest Priority: Critically Imperiled – Species that appear to be critically imperiled and in need of immediate action.
2: Strong Data Available on Species’ Status – Species for which we have existing strong scientific data supporting a clear decision on status.
3: New Science Underway to Inform Key Uncertainties – Species for which important emerging science on their status is underway to answer key questions that may influence the petition finding; uncertainty about species’ status can be resolved in a reasonable timeframe.
4: Conservation Efforts in Development or Underway – Species for which proactive conservation efforts by states, landowners and stakeholders are underway or being developed. The conservation efforts should be organized and likely to reduce threats to the species. Conservation efforts should be developed or in place within a reasonable timeframe to be considered for placement in this bin.
5: Limited Data Currently Available – Species for which there is little information on status and threats available to inform a petition finding.
Carswell cites critiques of the new system by staff of the Center for Biological Diversity such as that the system favors mammals and birds because they are more studied. However, she also cites a staff person at the Defenders of Wildlife as acknowledging that “there will always be some species that come out ahead.”
Comments on the new system in the Federal Register included questions on how a differentiation between categories (e.g., 1&2) would be made:
“One commenter noted that Bin 1 appears to suppose strong data are available to define ‘critically imperiled’’ and ‘‘severe threats,’’ meaning there is significant overlap between Bins 1 and 2. The commenter stated that the final methodology needs to make clear the distinction between placing species in Bin 1 or Bin 2.”
From my viewpoint, a key point is how the new system affects the “politics” of negotiation between USFWS and organizations like CBD. Will it make it more difficult for CBD to force deals? I am not clear on this point. Does anyone else have insights? Of course, the situation could change radically soon with the advent of the Trump Administration in which the protections under the Endangered Species Act will be watered down and the need for triage may seem irrelevant. Since the Trump Administration is not likely to value preserving any species as more important than economic interests (Query: during the campaign, I did not hear about Trump’s policies concerning endangered species at all—is that correct?) Based on Trump’s “philosophy,” my assumption is that restrictions based on preserving endangered species would be considered unnecessary “regulation” that should be eliminated as a burden on business and job production?
I have just completed a book titled "Wildlife Politics" that is scheduled to be published by Cambridge University Press on March 30, 2017. The book covers broadly all major aspects of wildlife conservation policy worldwide. During my research for the book, I noticed that there was no blog available for sharing informaton on wildlife conservation and thus I set up this blog to accomplish this purpose. Please share any informaticoncerning issues related to wildife policy and politics. I welcome feedback from users concerning this blog and website.