Improvements to Petitioning Process under Endangered Species Act Promotes Coordination, Transparency; Ensures Robust Scientific Review

September 26, 2016

Gavin Shire
(703) 358-2220

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is the backbone of conservation efforts for America’s most imperiled plants and animals. It has helped prevent the extinctions of hundreds of species of plants and animals and promoted recovery efforts that have ensured future generations live in a world with bald eagles, American alligators and Steller sea lions. Beginning in 2011, the Obama administration has prioritized efforts to revise regulations and policies to make the ESA more effective, more transparent and easier to implement.

As part of that endeavor, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries (together, the Services) – the agencies that implement the ESA – have improved the process by which species are petitioned for listing, delisting or reclassification under the ESA. The regulations also describe the process by which a petitioner may request revisions to critical habitat designations under the ESA. The revised ESA petition regulations will help ensure more complete and robust petitions that will lead to more effective conservation, greater involvement by state wildlife agencies, and provide greater transparency to the public.

Taken together, the revisions will allow the Services and their partners to better leverage limited resources to more effectively conserve America’s imperiled wildlife. Revisions to the petition regulations were originally proposed in May 2015 and today’s final revisions reflect extensive input from the public and stakeholders.

“The final revisions to the Endangered Species Act petition regulations reflect the thoughtful feedback and concerns of many partners, while staying true to our goal of improving both the quality of petitions and the ESA’s effectiveness,” said Dan Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director. “State wildlife agencies are critical partners in conserving wildlife in America and often possess the most up-to-date and relevant information on imperiled species, so making better use of their expertise makes good conservation sense.”

The final revisions to ESA listing petition regulations include:

Improved engagement with state wildlife agencies: Petitioners will be required to notify each state wildlife agency in which the species occurs at least 30 days before submitting the petition to the Services. This change will provide states an opportunity to submit pertinent information on petitioned species in time to inform our review.

Limitation on number of species per petition: Petitions will be limited to only one species per petition. A petition may still address any members of a single species as defined by the ESA, including the full species and one or more subspecies or varieties. For vertebrate species, this includes one or more distinct population segment (DPS).

This regulation will go into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. For more information on the revised proposed ESA petition regulations, go to, or visit our webpage at

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.govor connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube.

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