Climate change drives new proposed rule for experimental populations

By Cassie Ferri

The establishment of experimental California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) populations is considered a conservation success story for the Endangered Species Act. Credit: Jim Bahn

The U.S. Department of the Interior is proposing a new Endangered Species Act rule that would permit the introduction of experimental populations of listed species beyond their historical range.

The proposed rule change cites threats like climate change and invasive species, which are impacting ecological conditions, as rationale for moving species outside of their historical areas.

“Recovering species and preventing their extinction will require innovative, proactive, science-based policies and conservation actions that address the growing impacts from climate change and invasive species before it is too late,” said Martha Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, in a press release.

The newly proposed Endangered Species Act interpretive rule would revise section 10(j) regulations that facilitate the introduction and management of experimental populations. Experimental population designation allows a population of an ESA-listed species to be released into habitat deemed suitable for the species, while providing increased flexibility in working with nonfederal partners in managing “take” of the species.

The proposed rule seeks to articulate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s authority to facilitate the introduction of experimental populations to areas outside of their historical ranges. The effort is motivated by recent findings that the growing impacts of climate change and invasive species are causing species’ traditional ranges and habitats to shift across the landscape. The revised regulation would apply only to future designated experimental populations, and not to existing experimental populations of listed species like California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) or black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes).

The Department of the Interior is now seeking comments on the proposed rule. All comments must be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by August 8, 2022.


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