Interior Finalizes Plan for Species-Protection Backlog

The Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized its plan for tackling the backlog of species that warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency has set rough target dates for potential listing decisions and critical habitat designations for hundreds of species, from the lesser prairie chicken and Sonoran Desert tortoise to the Pacific walrus.

The work plan lists which fiscal year the agency expects to review each species' status and, if protection is warranted, when it would take the next steps, such as final listing and critical habitat designation.

The fiscal 2013-2018 work plan includes both court-ordered deadlines and other species the agency anticipates it will review.

FWS agreed to develop and carry out key parts of the work plan as part of a massive settlement with environmental groups in 2011. The agency promised to address more than 250 candidate species it had previously found warranted protection but were precluded from listing because of the backlog. They also pledged to review hundreds more species proposed for listing.

The purpose of making the work plan public is to allow other agencies and the public to plan accordingly, the agency said.