Draft Methodology for Prioritizing Status Reviews and Accompanying 12-Month Findings on Petitions for Listing Under the Endangered Species Act, 2229-2232 [2016-00616]

Download as PDF mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11411), as amended, HUD is publishing this Notice to identify Federal buildings and other real property that HUD has reviewed for suitability for use to assist the homeless. The properties were reviewed using information provided to HUD by Federal landholding agencies regarding unutilized and underutilized buildings and real property controlled by such agencies or by GSA regarding its inventory of excess or surplus Federal property. This Notice is also published in order to comply with the December 12, 1988 Court Order in National Coalition for the Homeless v. Veterans Administration, No. 88–2503– OG (D.D.C.). Properties reviewed are listed in this Notice according to the following categories: Suitable/available, suitable/ unavailable, and suitable/to be excess, and unsuitable. The properties listed in the three suitable categories have been reviewed by the landholding agencies, and each agency has transmitted to HUD: (1) Its intention to make the property available for use to assist the homeless, (2) its intention to declare the property excess to the agency’s needs, or (3) a statement of the reasons that the property cannot be declared excess or made available for use as facilities to assist the homeless. Properties listed as suitable/available will be available exclusively for homeless use for a period of 60 days from the date of this Notice. Where property is described as for ‘‘off-site use only’’ recipients of the property will be required to relocate the building to their own site at their own expense. Homeless assistance providers interested in any such property should send a written expression of interest to HHS, addressed to: Ms. Theresa M. Ritta, Chief Real Property Branch, the Department of Health and Human Services, Room 5B–17, Parklawn Building, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857, (301) 443–2265 (This is not a toll-free number.) HHS will mail to the interested provider an application packet, which will include instructions for completing the application. In order to maximize the opportunity to utilize a suitable property, providers should submit their written expressions of interest as soon as possible. For complete details concerning the processing of applications, the reader is encouraged to refer to the interim rule governing this program, 24 CFR part 581. For properties listed as suitable/to be excess, that property may, if subsequently accepted as excess by GSA, be made available for use by the homeless in accordance with applicable VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 law, subject to screening for other Federal use. At the appropriate time, HUD will publish the property in a Notice showing it as either suitable/ available or suitable/unavailable. For properties listed as suitable/ unavailable, the landholding agency has decided that the property cannot be declared excess or made available for use to assist the homeless, and the property will not be available. Properties listed as unsuitable will not be made available for any other purpose for 20 days from the date of this Notice. Homeless assistance providers interested in a review by HUD of the determination of unsuitability should call the toll free information line at 1– 800–927–7588 for detailed instructions or write a letter to Ann Marie Oliva at the address listed at the beginning of this Notice. Included in the request for review should be the property address (including zip code), the date of publication in the Federal Register, the landholding agency, and the property number. For more information regarding particular properties identified in this Notice (i.e., acreage, floor plan, existing sanitary facilities, exact street address), providers should contact the appropriate landholding agencies at the following addresses: NAVY: Mr. Steve Matteo, Department of the Navy, Asset Management; Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Washington Navy Yard, 1330 Patterson Ave. SW., Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20374; (202)685–9426. (This is not a toll-free number) Dated: January 7, 2016. Brian P. Fitzmaurice, Director, Division of Community Assistance, Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs. Unsuitable Properties Building Louisiana 6 Buildings NAS JRB, New Orleans New Orleans LA 70143 Landholding Agency: Navy Property Number: 77201610001 Status: Excess Directions: 300, 301, 301A, 301B, 305, 305A Comments: public access denied and no alternative method to gain access without compromising national security. Reasons: Secured Area. [FR Doc. 2016–00486 Filed 1–14–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4210–67–P PO 00000 Frm 00070 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2229 DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [Docket No. FWS–HQ–ES–2015–0169; 4500030113] Draft Methodology for Prioritizing Status Reviews and Accompanying 12Month Findings on Petitions for Listing Under the Endangered Species Act Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a draft methodology for prioritizing status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings on petitions for listing species under the Endangered Species Act. This draft methodology is intended to allow us to address outstanding workload strategically as our resources allow and to provide transparency to our partners and other stakeholders as to how we establish priorities within our upcoming workload. DATES: We will accept comments from all interested parties until February 16, 2016. Please note that if you are using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below), the deadline for submitting an electronic comment is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on this date. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter the FWS–HQ–ES–2015–0169, which is the docket number for this draft policy. Then click on the Search button. You may enter a comment by clicking on ‘‘Comment Now!’’ Please ensure that you have found the correct document before submitting your comment. • U.S. mail or hand delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS–HQ–ES–2015–0169, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041– 3803. We will post all comments on http:// www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Request for Information section, below, for more information). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Douglas Krofta, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Conservation and Classification, MS: ES, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803; telephone 703/358–2171; facsimile 703/ 358–1735. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 2230 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Under the Endangered Species Act, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), the public can petition the Service to list, delist, or reclassify a species as an endangered species or a threatened species. The Act sets forth specific timeframes in which to complete initial findings on petitions: The Service has, to the maximum extent practicable, 90 days from receiving a petition to make a finding on whether the petition presents substantial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted; and subsequently 12 months from receiving a petition for which the Service has made a positive initial finding to make a finding on whether the petitioned action is warranted. However, these statutory deadlines have often proven not to be achievable given the workload in the listing program and the available resources. Recently, as a result of petitions to list a large number of species under the Act, our workload includes more than 500 unresolved status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings on those petitions to complete. At the same time, our resources to complete these findings are limited. Over the last several years, we have streamlined, and continue to find efficiencies in, our procedures for evaluating petitions and conducting listing actions, but these efforts are not sufficient to keep up with the demands of our workload. This draft methodology is intended to allow us to address the outstanding workload of status reviews and accompanying 12month findings strategically as our resources allow and to provide transparency to our partners and other stakeholders as to how we establish priorities within our upcoming workload. To balance and manage this existing and anticipated future status review and accompanying 12-month finding workload in the most efficient manner, we have developed a draft methodology to help us use our resources wisely by working on the highest-priority status reviews and accompanying 12-month petition findings first. The draft methodology consists of identifying five prioritization categories for these actions, determining where (into which category) each action belongs, and using that information to establish the order in which we plan to complete status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings on petitions to list species under the Act. This prioritization of petition findings will inform a multiyear National Listing Workplan for VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 completing all types of actions in the listing program workload—including not only status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings, but also status reviews initiated by the Service, proposed and final listing determinations, and proposed and final critical habitat designations. We intend to make the National Listing Workplan publically available on our Web site (www.fws.gov/endangered/) and periodically update it as circumstances warrant. This draft methodology for prioritizing petitions to list species does not apply to actions to downlist a species from an endangered species to a threatened species or to delist a species. Further, this methodology does not replace our 1983 Endangered and Threatened Species Listing and Recovery Priority Guidelines (September 21, 1983; 48 FR 43098), which applies to species that have already been determined to warrant a listing proposal; rather, it complements it and can be used in conjunction with it. As with the 1983 guidelines, this draft methodology must be viewed as a guide and should not be looked upon as an inflexible framework for determining resource allocations (See 48 FR 43098). It is not intended to be binding. The draft methodology to be used in prioritizing actions and identified herein incorporates numerous objectives—including acting on the species that are most in need of, and that would most benefit from, listing under the Act first, and maximizing the efficiency of the listing program. We plan to evaluate unresolved status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings for upcoming listing actions and prioritize them using the prioritization categories and additional considerations identified in this draft methodology to assign each action to one of five priority categories, or ‘‘bins,’’ as described below. In prioritizing status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings, we will consider information from the 90-day finding, any petitions, and any other information in our files. We recognize that we may not always have in our files the information necessary to assign an action to the correct bin, so we plan to also work with State fish and wildlife agencies, Native American Tribes, and other appropriate conservation partners who have management responsibility for these species or relevant scientific data to obtain the information necessary to allow us to accurately prioritize specific actions. This priority system will assist us in compiling outstanding workload into a multi-year National Listing Workplan designed to address the species with the PO 00000 Frm 00071 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 highest need first. It is our intention that the National Listing Workplan balance addressing the large backlog of status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings with making progress on other listing actions, such as making final listing determinations for candidate species and designating critical habitat. While this draft methodology was developed primarily to prioritize the outstanding status reviews and accompanying 12-month petition findings, the considerations raised in our prioritization categories may also be useful in prioritizing other actions in the listing program as we develop the National Listing Workplan each year. Prior to the start of each fiscal year, we will update the National Listing Workplan as new information is obtained. We will share the National Listing Workplan with other Federal agencies, State fish and wildlife agencies, Native American Tribes, and other stakeholders and the public at large through posting on our Web site (www.fws.gov/endangered/). Priority Bins Below we describe the categories we have identified for prioritizing listing actions and the information that factors into placing specific actions into the appropriate priority bin. Note that an action need not meet every facet of a particular bin in order to be placed in that bin. If an action meets the conditions for more than one bin, the Service will seek to prioritize that action by taking into consideration any casespecific information relevant to determining what prioritization would, overall, best advance the objectives of this draft methodology—including protecting the species that are most in need of, and that would benefit most from, listing under the Act first, and maximizing the efficiency of the listing program. (1) Highest Priority—Critically Imperiled: Highest priority will be given to a species experiencing severe threat levels across a majority of its range, resulting in severe population-level impacts. Species that are critically imperiled and need immediate listing action in order to prevent extinction will be given highest priority. (2) Strong Data Already Available on Status: Species for which we currently have strong information concerning the species’ status will receive next highest priority. We acknowledge that the Act requires that we base our decisions on the best available information at the time we make a determination, and we will continue to adhere to that requirement. Our experience implementing the Act has shown us that E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices high-quality scientific information leads to stronger, more defensible decisions that have increased longevity. Therefore, we will generally place species for which we have particularly strong scientific data supporting a clear decision on status—either a decision that the species warrants listing or does not warrant listing—at a higher priority than species in Bins 3, 4, and 5, discussed below. (3) New Science Underway to Inform Key Uncertainties: As stated previously, a higher quality of scientific information leads to better decision-making, which focuses our resources on providing protections associated with endangered and threatened species listing on species most in need. Scientific uncertainty regarding a species’ status is often encountered in listing decisions. For circumstances when that uncertainty can be resolved within a reasonable timeframe because emerging science (e.g., taxonomy, genetics, threats) is underway to answer key questions that may influence the listing determination, those species will be prioritized for action next after those with existing strong information bases. This bin is appropriate when the emerging science or study is already underway, or a report is expected soon, or the data exist, but they need to be compiled and analyzed. Placing a species in this bin does not put off working on the listing action; it just prioritizes work on species in Bins 1 and 2 for completion first. Moreover, species do not remain in this bin indefinitely; a species for which ongoing research is not expected to produce results in the near future would not be placed in this bin, and any species that is placed in this bin will be moved to another bin after the research results become available. With the new, emerging information, a more informed decision could be made (e.g., a species’ status could be determined fairly readily through surveys or other research). (4) Conservation Opportunities in Development or Underway: Where efforts to conserve species are organized, underway, and likely to address the threats to the species, we will consider these species as our fourth highest priority. In order for a species to be appropriately placed in this bin, conservation agreements and commitments should be completed in time for consideration in the status review and accompanying 12-month finding and in an amount of time that provides landowners or other entities adequate opportunity to enroll prior to any listing decision. Placing a species in this bin does not put off working on the listing action; it just prioritizes work on VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 species in Bins 1, 2, and 3 for completion first. (5) Limited Data Currently Available: Species for which we know almost nothing about its threats or status will be given fifth highest priority. If we do not have much information about a species without conducting research or further analysis, the species would be suitably placed in this bin. Placing a species in this bin does not put off working on the listing action; it just prioritizes work on species in Bins 1, 2, 3, and 4 for completion first. According to the standard under the Act, we need to make listing decisions based on the best available scientific and commercial data. Because the best available data for species in this bin may be very limited, even if the Service conducts further research, we will place a higher priority on work for those species for which we have more and better data already available. Additional Considerations The following considerations will also be used to inform implementation of the prioritization process, development of the National Listing Workplan, and any necessary internal ranking within each bin (i.e., as tie-breakers within a bin): • The level of complexity surrounding the status review and accompanying 12-month finding, such as the degree of controversy, biological complexity, or whether the status review and accompanying 12-month finding covers multiple species or spans multiple regions of the Service. • The extent to which the protections of the Act would be able to improve conditions for that species and its habitat or also provide benefits to many other species. For example, a species primarily under threat due to sea level rise from the effects of climate change is unlikely to have its condition much improved by the protections of the Act. By contrast, a species primarily under threat due to habitat destruction from grazing practices on public lands would more directly benefit from the protections of the Act. • Whether there are opportunities to maximize efficiency by batching multiple species for the purpose of status reviews, petition findings, or listing determinations. For example, actions could be batched by taxon, by species with like threats, by similar geographic location, or other similar circumstances. Batching may result in lower-priority actions that are tied to higher-priority actions being completed earlier than they would otherwise. • Whether there are any special circumstances whereby an action should be bumped up (or down) in PO 00000 Frm 00072 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2231 priority when internally ranking actions within a bin or developing the National Listing Workplan. One limitation that might result in divergence from priority order is when the current highest priorities are clustered in a geographic area, such that our scientific expertise at the field office level is fully occupied with their existing workload. We recognize that the geographic distribution of our scientific expertise will in some cases require us to balance workload across geographic areas. Request for Information Section 4(h) of the ESA requires that, when the Secretary establishes guidelines to insure that the purposes of Section 4 are achieved efficiently and effectively, the Secretary provide to the public notice of, and opportunity to submit written comments on, those guidelines. In addition, we intend that a final methodology for prioritizing status reviews and accompanying 12month findings for listing will consider information and recommendations from all interested parties. We therefore solicit comments, information, and recommendations from governmental agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry groups, environmental interest groups, and any other interested parties. All comments and materials we receive by the date listed above in DATES will be considered prior to the adoption of a final methodology. If you submit information via http:// www.regulations.gov, your entire submission—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov. We seek comments and recommendations in particular on: (1) Whether this draft methodology sets out clearly defined conditions for the prioritization bins. If not, please provide detailed comments so that we can clarify our methodology. (2) Whether there may be other factors or considerations that should be incorporated into our methodology. (3) Whether our draft methodology makes logical sense and will result in an appropriate use of our limited resources. Determinations Under Other Authorities As mentioned above, we intend to use this methodology to prioritize work on E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1 2232 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 10 / Friday, January 15, 2016 / Notices status reviews and accompanying 12month findings and to assist with prioritizing actions in order to develop the National Listing Workplan for each fiscal year. Below we make determinations provided for under several Executive Orders and statutes that may apply where a Federal action is not a binding rule or regulation. to Tribes and other stakeholders in the prioritization of our upcoming workload. We will continue to work with Tribes as we finalize this draft methodology and obtain the information necessary to accurately bin specific actions and develop our National Listing Workplan. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) We are analyzing this draft methodology in accordance with the criteria of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), the Department of the Interior regulations on Implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (43 CFR 46.10–46.450), and the Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 1–6 and 8). We invite the public to comment on the extent to which this draft methodology may have a significant impact on the human environment, or fall within one of the categorical exclusions for actions that have no individual or cumulative effect on the quality of the human environment. We will complete our analysis, in compliance with NEPA, before finalizing this methodology. The primary authors of this draft policy are the staff members of the Division of Conservation and Classification, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 This draft methodology does not contain any collections of information that require approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). This draft methodology will not impose recordkeeping or reporting requirements on State or local governments, individuals, businesses, or organizations. We may not conduct or sponsor and you are not required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes In accordance with the President’s memorandum of April 29, 1994, ‘‘Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments’’ (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 ‘‘Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments,’’ and the Department of the Interior Manual at 512 DM 2, and the Department of Commerce American Indian and Alaska Native Policy (March 30, 1995), we have considered possible effects on federally recognized Indian tribes and have preliminarily determined that there are no potential adverse effects of issuing this draft methodology. Our intent with this draft methodology is to provide transparency VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:01 Jan 14, 2016 Jkt 238001 Authors Authority The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Dated: January 6, 2016. Stephen Guertin, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [FR Doc. 2016–00616 Filed 1–14–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR National Park Service [NPS–NER–19995, PPNEHATUC0, PPMRSCR1Y.CU0000 (166)] Proposed Information Collection; National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program National Park Service, Interior. Notice; request for comments. AGENCY: ACTION: We (National Park Service) will ask the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve the information collection described below. As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and as part of our continuing efforts to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, we invite the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on this IC. This IC is scheduled to expire on July 31, 2016. We may not conduct or sponsor and a person is not required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a valid OMB control number. DATES: To ensure we are able to consider your comments, we must receive them on or before March 15, 2016. SUMMARY: Please send your comments on the ICR to Madonna L. Baucum, Information Collection Clearance Officer, National Park Service, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Room 2C114, Mail Stop 242, Reston, VA 20192 (mail); or ADDRESSES: PO 00000 Frm 00073 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 madonna_baucum@nps.gov (email). Please reference OMB Control Number ‘‘1024–0232, NPS National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom’’ in the subject line of your comments. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Diane Miller, National Manager, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program, National Park Service, c/o Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, 2145 Key Wallace Drive, Cambridge, Maryland 21613; or via email at diane_miller@nps.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Abstract Public Law 105–203 (National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998) authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to establish the Network to Freedom (Network). The Network is a collection of sites, facilities, and programs, both governmental and nongovernmental, around the United States. All entities must have a verifiable association with the historic Underground Railroad movement. The National Park Service administers the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program. The program coordinates preservation and education efforts Nationwide and integrates local historical places, museums, and interpretive programs associated with the Underground Railroad into a mosaic of community, regional, and national stories. Individuals; businesses; organizations; State, tribal and local governments; and Federal agencies that want to join the Network must complete an application form. The application and instructions are available on our Web site at http://www.nps.gov/ subjects/ugrr/index.htm. Respondents must (1) verify associations and characteristics through descriptive texts that are the result of historical research and (2) submit supporting documentation; e.g., copies of rare documents, photographs, and maps. Much of the information is submitted in electronic format and used to determine eligibility to become part of the Network. Upon approval by OMB of this extension request, the NPS will begin developing a HTML version of the 10– 946, ‘‘National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Application Form’’ on the Department of the Interior’s Enterprise Forms System (EFS) Web site. The EFS will consolidate all internal forms used by the Department and external forms used by the public into a centralized automated forms program. This will E:\FR\FM\15JAN1.SGM 15JAN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 10 (Friday, January 15, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 2229-2232]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-00616]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-2015-0169; 4500030113]


Draft Methodology for Prioritizing Status Reviews and 
Accompanying 12-Month Findings on Petitions for Listing Under the 
Endangered Species Act

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
draft methodology for prioritizing status reviews and accompanying 12-
month findings on petitions for listing species under the Endangered 
Species Act. This draft methodology is intended to allow us to address 
outstanding workload strategically as our resources allow and to 
provide transparency to our partners and other stakeholders as to how 
we establish priorities within our upcoming workload.

DATES: We will accept comments from all interested parties until 
February 16, 2016. Please note that if you are using the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below), the deadline for 
submitting an electronic comment is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on this 
date.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In 
the Search box, enter the FWS-HQ-ES-2015-0169, which is the docket 
number for this draft policy. Then click on the Search button. You may 
enter a comment by clicking on ``Comment Now!'' Please ensure that you 
have found the correct document before submitting your comment.
     U.S. mail or hand delivery: Public Comments Processing, 
Attn: Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-2015-0169, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide 
us (see the Request for Information section, below, for more 
information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Douglas Krofta, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Division of Conservation and Classification, MS: ES, 5275 
Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803; telephone 703/358-2171; 
facsimile 703/358-1735. If you use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-
877-8339.

[[Page 2230]]


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Under the Endangered Species Act, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.), the public can petition the Service to list, delist, or 
reclassify a species as an endangered species or a threatened species. 
The Act sets forth specific timeframes in which to complete initial 
findings on petitions: The Service has, to the maximum extent 
practicable, 90 days from receiving a petition to make a finding on 
whether the petition presents substantial information indicating that 
the petitioned action may be warranted; and subsequently 12 months from 
receiving a petition for which the Service has made a positive initial 
finding to make a finding on whether the petitioned action is 
warranted. However, these statutory deadlines have often proven not to 
be achievable given the workload in the listing program and the 
available resources.
    Recently, as a result of petitions to list a large number of 
species under the Act, our workload includes more than 500 unresolved 
status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings on those petitions to 
complete. At the same time, our resources to complete these findings 
are limited. Over the last several years, we have streamlined, and 
continue to find efficiencies in, our procedures for evaluating 
petitions and conducting listing actions, but these efforts are not 
sufficient to keep up with the demands of our workload. This draft 
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 
upcoming workload.
    To balance and manage this existing and anticipated future status 
review and accompanying 12-month finding workload in the most efficient 
manner, we have developed a draft methodology to help us use our 
resources wisely by working on the highest-priority status reviews and 
accompanying 12-month petition findings first. The draft methodology 
consists of identifying five prioritization categories for these 
actions, determining where (into which category) each action belongs, 
and using that information to establish the order in which we plan to 
complete status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings on petitions 
to list species under the Act. This prioritization of petition findings 
will inform a multi-year National Listing Workplan for completing all 
types of actions in the listing program workload--including not only 
status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings, but also status 
reviews initiated by the Service, proposed and final listing 
determinations, and proposed and final critical habitat designations. 
We intend to make the National Listing Workplan publically available on 
our Web site (www.fws.gov/endangered/) and periodically update it as 
circumstances warrant. This draft methodology for prioritizing 
petitions to list species does not apply to actions to downlist a 
species from an endangered species to a threatened species or to delist 
a species. Further, this methodology does not replace our 1983 
Endangered and Threatened Species Listing and Recovery Priority 
Guidelines (September 21, 1983; 48 FR 43098), which applies to species 
that have already been determined to warrant a listing proposal; 
rather, it complements it and can be used in conjunction with it. As 
with the 1983 guidelines, this draft methodology must be viewed as a 
guide and should not be looked upon as an inflexible framework for 
determining resource allocations (See 48 FR 43098). It is not intended 
to be binding. The draft methodology to be used in prioritizing actions 
and identified herein incorporates numerous objectives--including 
acting on the species that are most in need of, and that would most 
benefit from, listing under the Act first, and maximizing the 
efficiency of the listing program.
    We plan to evaluate unresolved status reviews and accompanying 12-
month findings for upcoming listing actions and prioritize them using 
the prioritization categories and additional considerations identified 
in this draft methodology to assign each action to one of five priority 
categories, or ``bins,'' as described below. In prioritizing status 
reviews and accompanying 12-month findings, we will consider 
information from the 90-day finding, any petitions, and any other 
information in our files. We recognize that we may not always have in 
our files the information necessary to assign an action to the correct 
bin, so we plan to also work with State fish and wildlife agencies, 
Native American Tribes, and other appropriate conservation partners who 
have management responsibility for these species or relevant scientific 
data to obtain the information necessary to allow us to accurately 
prioritize specific actions.
    This priority system will assist us in compiling outstanding 
workload into a multi-year National Listing Workplan designed to 
address the species with the highest need first. It is our intention 
that the National Listing Workplan balance addressing the large backlog 
of status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings with making 
progress on other listing actions, such as making final listing 
determinations for candidate species and designating critical habitat. 
While this draft methodology was developed primarily to prioritize the 
outstanding status reviews and accompanying 12-month petition findings, 
the considerations raised in our prioritization categories may also be 
useful in prioritizing other actions in the listing program as we 
develop the National Listing Workplan each year. Prior to the start of 
each fiscal year, we will update the National Listing Workplan as new 
information is obtained. We will share the National Listing Workplan 
with other Federal agencies, State fish and wildlife agencies, Native 
American Tribes, and other stakeholders and the public at large through 
posting on our Web site (www.fws.gov/endangered/).

Priority Bins

    Below we describe the categories we have identified for 
prioritizing listing actions and the information that factors into 
placing specific actions into the appropriate priority bin. Note that 
an action need not meet every facet of a particular bin in order to be 
placed in that bin. If an action meets the conditions for more than one 
bin, the Service will seek to prioritize that action by taking into 
consideration any case-specific information relevant to determining 
what prioritization would, overall, best advance the objectives of this 
draft methodology--including protecting the species that are most in 
need of, and that would benefit most from, listing under the Act first, 
and maximizing the efficiency of the listing program.
    (1) Highest Priority--Critically Imperiled: Highest priority will 
be given to a species experiencing severe threat levels across a 
majority of its range, resulting in severe population-level impacts. 
Species that are critically imperiled and need immediate listing action 
in order to prevent extinction will be given highest priority.
    (2) Strong Data Already Available on Status: Species for which we 
currently have strong information concerning the species' status will 
receive next highest priority. We acknowledge that the Act requires 
that we base our decisions on the best available information at the 
time we make a determination, and we will continue to adhere to that 
requirement. Our experience implementing the Act has shown us that

[[Page 2231]]

high-quality scientific information leads to stronger, more defensible 
decisions that have increased longevity. Therefore, we will generally 
place species for which we have particularly strong scientific data 
supporting a clear decision on status--either a decision that the 
species warrants listing or does not warrant listing--at a higher 
priority than species in Bins 3, 4, and 5, discussed below.
    (3) New Science Underway to Inform Key Uncertainties: As stated 
previously, a higher quality of scientific information leads to better 
decision-making, which focuses our resources on providing protections 
associated with endangered and threatened species listing on species 
most in need. Scientific uncertainty regarding a species' status is 
often encountered in listing decisions. For circumstances when that 
uncertainty can be resolved within a reasonable timeframe because 
emerging science (e.g., taxonomy, genetics, threats) is underway to 
answer key questions that may influence the listing determination, 
those species will be prioritized for action next after those with 
existing strong information bases. This bin is appropriate when the 
emerging science or study is already underway, or a report is expected 
soon, or the data exist, but they need to be compiled and analyzed. 
Placing a species in this bin does not put off working on the listing 
action; it just prioritizes work on species in Bins 1 and 2 for 
completion first. Moreover, species do not remain in this bin 
indefinitely; a species for which ongoing research is not expected to 
produce results in the near future would not be placed in this bin, and 
any species that is placed in this bin will be moved to another bin 
after the research results become available. With the new, emerging 
information, a more informed decision could be made (e.g., a species' 
status could be determined fairly readily through surveys or other 
research).
    (4) Conservation Opportunities in Development or Underway: Where 
efforts to conserve species are organized, underway, and likely to 
address the threats to the species, we will consider these species as 
our fourth highest priority. In order for a species to be appropriately 
placed in this bin, conservation agreements and commitments should be 
completed in time for consideration in the status review and 
accompanying 12-month finding and in an amount of time that provides 
landowners or other entities adequate opportunity to enroll prior to 
any listing decision. Placing a species in this bin does not put off 
working on the listing action; it just prioritizes work on species in 
Bins 1, 2, and 3 for completion first.
    (5) Limited Data Currently Available: Species for which we know 
almost nothing about its threats or status will be given fifth highest 
priority. If we do not have much information about a species without 
conducting research or further analysis, the species would be suitably 
placed in this bin. Placing a species in this bin does not put off 
working on the listing action; it just prioritizes work on species in 
Bins 1, 2, 3, and 4 for completion first.
    According to the standard under the Act, we need to make listing 
decisions based on the best available scientific and commercial data. 
Because the best available data for species in this bin may be very 
limited, even if the Service conducts further research, we will place a 
higher priority on work for those species for which we have more and 
better data already available.

Additional Considerations

    The following considerations will also be used to inform 
implementation of the prioritization process, development of the 
National Listing Workplan, and any necessary internal ranking within 
each bin (i.e., as tie-breakers within a bin):
     The level of complexity surrounding the status review and 
accompanying 12-month finding, such as the degree of controversy, 
biological complexity, or whether the status review and accompanying 
12-month finding covers multiple species or spans multiple regions of 
the Service.
     The extent to which the protections of the Act would be 
able to improve conditions for that species and its habitat or also 
provide benefits to many other species. For example, a species 
primarily under threat due to sea level rise from the effects of 
climate change is unlikely to have its condition much improved by the 
protections of the Act. By contrast, a species primarily under threat 
due to habitat destruction from grazing practices on public lands would 
more directly benefit from the protections of the Act.
     Whether there are opportunities to maximize efficiency by 
batching multiple species for the purpose of status reviews, petition 
findings, or listing determinations. For example, actions could be 
batched by taxon, by species with like threats, by similar geographic 
location, or other similar circumstances. Batching may result in lower-
priority actions that are tied to higher-priority actions being 
completed earlier than they would otherwise.
     Whether there are any special circumstances whereby an 
action should be bumped up (or down) in priority when internally 
ranking actions within a bin or developing the National Listing 
Workplan. One limitation that might result in divergence from priority 
order is when the current highest priorities are clustered in a 
geographic area, such that our scientific expertise at the field office 
level is fully occupied with their existing workload. We recognize that 
the geographic distribution of our scientific expertise will in some 
cases require us to balance workload across geographic areas.

Request for Information

    Section 4(h) of the ESA requires that, when the Secretary 
establishes guidelines to insure that the purposes of Section 4 are 
achieved efficiently and effectively, the Secretary provide to the 
public notice of, and opportunity to submit written comments on, those 
guidelines. In addition, we intend that a final methodology for 
prioritizing status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings for 
listing will consider information and recommendations from all 
interested parties. We therefore solicit comments, information, and 
recommendations from governmental agencies, Native American Tribes, the 
scientific community, industry groups, environmental interest groups, 
and any other interested parties. All comments and materials we receive 
by the date listed above in DATES will be considered prior to the 
adoption of a final methodology.
    If you submit information via http://www.regulations.gov, your 
entire submission--including any personal identifying information--will 
be posted on the Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy 
that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the 
top of your document that we withhold this information from public 
review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We 
will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov.
    We seek comments and recommendations in particular on:
    (1) Whether this draft methodology sets out clearly defined 
conditions for the prioritization bins. If not, please provide detailed 
comments so that we can clarify our methodology.
    (2) Whether there may be other factors or considerations that 
should be incorporated into our methodology.
    (3) Whether our draft methodology makes logical sense and will 
result in an appropriate use of our limited resources.

Determinations Under Other Authorities

    As mentioned above, we intend to use this methodology to prioritize 
work on

[[Page 2232]]

status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings and to assist with 
prioritizing actions in order to develop the National Listing Workplan 
for each fiscal year. Below we make determinations provided for under 
several Executive Orders and statutes that may apply where a Federal 
action is not a binding rule or regulation.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    We are analyzing this draft methodology in accordance with the 
criteria of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 
et seq.), the Department of the Interior regulations on Implementation 
of the National Environmental Policy Act (43 CFR 46.10-46.450), and the 
Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 1-6 and 8). We invite the 
public to comment on the extent to which this draft methodology may 
have a significant impact on the human environment, or fall within one 
of the categorical exclusions for actions that have no individual or 
cumulative effect on the quality of the human environment. We will 
complete our analysis, in compliance with NEPA, before finalizing this 
methodology.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995

    This draft methodology does not contain any collections of 
information that require approval by the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et 
seq.). This draft methodology will not impose recordkeeping or 
reporting requirements on State or local governments, individuals, 
businesses, or organizations. We may not conduct or sponsor and you are 
not required to respond to a collection of information unless it 
displays a currently valid OMB control number.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 ``Consultation and 
Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments,'' and the Department of 
the Interior Manual at 512 DM 2, and the Department of Commerce 
American Indian and Alaska Native Policy (March 30, 1995), we have 
considered possible effects on federally recognized Indian tribes and 
have preliminarily determined that there are no potential adverse 
effects of issuing this draft methodology. Our intent with this draft 
methodology is to provide transparency to Tribes and other stakeholders 
in the prioritization of our upcoming workload. We will continue to 
work with Tribes as we finalize this draft methodology and obtain the 
information necessary to accurately bin specific actions and develop 
our National Listing Workplan.

Authors

    The primary authors of this draft policy are the staff members of 
the Division of Conservation and Classification, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041.

Authority

    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: January 6, 2016.
Stephen Guertin,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-00616 Filed 1-14-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4333-15-P