Listing Process & Petitioned Species
Factors considered for threatened/endangered status
The ESA requires the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to consider the following 5 factors when deciding whether a species warrants listing as endangered or threatened:
- Damage or destruction of the species’ habitat
- Overuse of the species for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes
- Disease or predation
- Inadequacy of existing protections
- Other natural or man-made factors affecting continued survival of the species
The timeline for the listing process
The ESA sets a timeline for listing decisions to be made. If missed, these statutory deadlines can be enforced by private citizens and conservation groups through litigation.
Petition – Any person or organization can file a petition to list a species as endangered or threatened or to change the status of a listed species.
90-Day Finding – The USFWS or NOAA has 90 days after a petition has been filed to examine the petition. At the end of this period, agency officials must decide whether the petition presents substantial information showing that a listing may be warranted During this phase of the process, agency officials must look only at the information presented in the petition itself. Once a decision has been reached, agency officials announce their conclusion in the Federal Register making what is known as a “90-day finding.”
12-Month Finding – If the petition does present substantial information indicating that the species may need to be listed, then the agency must conduct a species status review. During this phase, agency officials can look beyond the petition to the best available scientific data regarding the status of the species. This data can come from both public and private lands. The government has one year from the date the petition was filed to conduct this review and to announce its listing decision. This decision is known as the “12-month finding.”
USFWS Listing Workplan: a “schedule” for listing decisions
From 1994 through 2005, the USFWS received approximately 20 petitions per year to list new species under the ESA. From 2007 to 2010, the agency received a total of over 1,200 petitions to list new species. Three “mega-petitions” were submitted during this period, including hundreds of species recommended for listing in a single petition.
Due to the unprecedented volume of listing petitions, USFWS has been unable to meet numerous deadlines for 90-day and 12-month findings, resulting in several lawsuits. These lawsuits were consolidated into a single “multi-district litigation” or MDL. In 2011, the USFWS entered into settlement agreements with the plaintiffs, resulting in National Listing Workplan – prioritized schedules to make petition findings for over 600 species and to make final listing decisions for 251 pending candidate species.
Private forest landowners can look to the Listing Workplan and monitor which forest-dependent species are due for upcoming listing decisions. Several of these species of particular concern are identified below.
Explore Further Information on the ESA Listing Process:
Southeast Forests: Several amphibian species of concern to forest landowners in the southeastern US have been petitioned for listing. Landowners in this region may also consult the USFWS Region 4 At-Risk Species webpage.
Species of Concern
|Species||Decision Due||Link(s) to additional species info|
|Louisiana pine snake
|April 6, 2018||UGA Herpetology Program|
|Spring 2018||UGA Herpetology Program|
|Southern hognose snake
|2019||UGA Herpetology Program|
|Florida pine snake
|2022||UGA Herpetology Program|
|2023||UGA Herpetology Program|
|Eastern diamondback rattlesnake
|After 2023||UGA Herpetology Program|
|After 2023||UGA Herpetology Program|
Midwest / Northeast Forests: Species of concern to forest landowners in these areas are primarily bat species.
- Tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) – USFWS Fact Sheet
Pacific Northwest Forests: Species of concern to forest landowners in these areas are primarily bird species.
- California Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) – USFWS ECOS Species Profile