USFWS Action Could Impact Alabama Landowners October 20, 2011

A recent out-of-court settlement between certain environmental organizations and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has resulted in administrative action by USFWS that would examine the potential addition of 374 freshwater species in 12 southeastern states to the federal list of Threatened and Endangered species. A backlog of potential or “candidate” plants and animals had developed in recent years making it difficult for USFSWS to evaluate the large and growing list of species. A court case and subsequent settlement followed requiring USFWS to expedite a process and make decisions about these particular species.

Accordingly, USFWS announced its intent to evaluate whether or not these species should be granted protection under the Endangered Species Act subject to a September 27, 2011 notice in the Federal Register (Vol. 76, No. 187). USFWS will soon begin a study of these species to determine within the next 12 months if there is sufficient scientific information and data to support a recommendation in the future that any of these plants and animals should be formally declared threatened or endangered. A copy of the Federal Register Notice is available on the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) website. Alabama landowners are encouraged to review and submit comments to USFWS regarding the process no later than November 28, 2011. Comments may be submitted electronically or by U.S. mail, no e-mail or faxes will be accepted. Specific instructions are located in the Federal Register Notice.

Depending upon the following factors, a species may be determined to be threatened or endangered:

  • The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;
  •  Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
  •  Disease or predation;
  • The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
  •  Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.

According to USFWS, 136 of the 374 aquatic plant and animal species are known to occur in and around streams in Alabama. It is important that forest landowners be knowledgeable about the USFWS listing process and implications for managing forests now and in the future, particularly if any of the 136 species are ultimately designated as threatened or endangered. Frequently Asked Questions about the USFWS listing process can be found on the AFC website or In addition a summary of current federally listed species in Alabama by county can be found at

If a species is designated, USFWS will provide information about habitat and conservation measures needed to provide necessary protection and avoid harm to designated species. Management of private land could be limited if activities might harm or damage designated species population or habitat, and the management activity involves the federal government in some capacity such as a permit, license, or financial assistance. In most every case, however, any issues regarding potential impacts to aquatic habitat, whether it involves Threatened and Endangered Species or not, can be avoided by incorporating Best Management Practices (BMPs) as a part of forestry operations and activities. BMP guidance is available from the AFC including the publication, Alabama’s Best Management Practices for Forestry, that can be downloaded from the AFC website. In addition the Alabama Cooperative Extension System provides helpful guidance on the safe application and use of pesticides to avoid the possibility of impacting streams and aquatic habitat (see Alabama Cooperative Extension System's Endangered Species of Alabama.php) .

The Alabama Forestry Commission will provide continuing updates and information about the USFWS Listing process as it becomes available.