The lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) is a grouse that occupies a five-state range, including the western areas of Kansas and Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, eastern New Mexico, and southeastern Colorado. As we explained in a previous article, in response to litigation and following a nearly thirty-year history of regulatory listing and delisting, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS or Service) proposed to re-list two distinct population segments (DPS) of the LPC under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in June, 2021. 86 Fed. Reg. 29,432 (June 1, 2021). The Service has now issued a final rule listing the Southern DPS of the LPC (covering southwest Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico) as endangered and the Northern DPS of the LPC (covering southwestern to southcentral Kansas, western Oklahoma, northeast Texas Panhandle, and southeast Colorado) as threatened under the ESA. 87 Fed. Reg. 72,674 (Nov. 25, 2022). The rule becomes effective on January 24, 2023.
On May 7, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) under the new Biden administration published a proposed rule to revoke a final rule issued during the final weeks of the Trump administration, 86 Fed. Reg. 1134 (Jan. 7, 2021) (January 7 rule), which excluded incidental take from the prohibition against take under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA or Act). 86 Fed. Reg. 24,573 (May 7, 2021) (Proposed Rule). This proposal is the latest development in a series of efforts by recent presidential administrations to implement competing interpretations of the MBTA, as we have reported in previous articles. If USFWS revokes the January 7 rule as proposed, the regulated community will once again face uncertainty regarding its exposure to criminal enforcement under the MBTA for unintentional take of protected birds associated with a wide range of productive activities. Notably this could include the operation of wind turbines, an activity that the current administration otherwise presumably wants to encourage as part of its effort to expand the use of renewable energy to address climate change.
Continue Reading USFWS Proposes to Reverse Course (Again) Regarding Incidental Take Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
On January 7, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) published a final rule providing that the scope of the prohibition of take under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA or Act) applies “only to actions directed at migratory birds, their nests, or their eggs,” and does not prohibit incidental take (i.e., take that is not the purpose of an activity). 86 Fed. Reg. 1134 (January 7, 2021). The rule, which lists an effective date of February 8, 2021, represents the latest in a series of efforts by recent presidential administrations to implement competing interpretations of the MBTA. If it stands under the incoming administration, this rule will have important implications for the wind energy industry, among other sectors.
Continue Reading USFWS Issues Rule Excluding Incidental Take from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act: Implications for the Wind Energy Industry
All three branches of the federal government are currently considering the question of whether the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) prohibits the take of protected birds that is incidental to some otherwise lawful activity. The latest development is a proposal by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) to issue a regulation expressly defining the scope of the MBTA to exclude take “that results from, but is not the purpose of, an action (i.e., incidental taking or killing).” 85 Fed. Reg. 5915 (Feb. 3, 2020). This proposal is the latest effort by the USFWS to bring clarity and certainty to a question that has been the subject of dispute for years and is currently both the subject of pending lawsuits and proposed legislation before Congress. If adopted, the rule should bolster the current administration’s effort to defend its interpretation of the statute, but the question is likely to be litigated further, assuming Congress does not intervene (seemingly unlikely for now).
Continue Reading USFWS Makes Another Move to Exclude Incidental Take from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act