Informing ESA Listing Through Proactive Conservation Workshop

In April 7-9, 2015 a workshop between wildlife departments from 11 western states within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Regions 2 and 6, and two biologists from National Park Service. The workshop was well attended by roughly 60 personnel from most state wildlife agency and USFWS state office. The purpose of the workshop was to collaborate and inform state and USFWS planning actions associated with State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs) and ESA listing workload post-Multispecies District Litigation species listing actions, which is due to be completed in 2017.  This workshop was designed to share and discuss as a group what we know, what we believe we need, a prioritization of species conservation actions, and how we move forward in addressing the status of the species being evaluated by the USFWS and identified in the SWAPS

The first day, was spent presenting background information on the FWS pending listing workload and the Species Status Assessment process ( being used by the USFWS. After identifying the workload the group looked at success stories on how stakeholders were able to influence listing decisions by pulling together and analyzing existing information, by investing in new surveys or new science, and by planning and implementing conservation efforts.

The second day was spent in breakout groups by geographic area to figure out the status of existing information on the list of pending species being evaluated by the USFWS, identify any key information gaps/needs, and discuss the benefits from a coordinated conservation effort for various species. The breakout groups and discussions identified a number of conservation action items, and many states volunteered to lead efforts for next steps.

By all accounts, the workshop was a success. It was a great exchange of information that will inform the USFWS on their pending workload for evaluating ESA listings and for states on prioritizing actions associated with their SWAPs. The states provided very useful information on new science/ conservation efforts that were already being worked on, as well as brainstormed about what new efforts would be useful. 

The participants from the workshop became part of the ESA Influence Workgroup (ESAIWG) and continues to be led by the WAFWA Grassland Initiative Coordinator. Since the workshop, the ESAIWG has been expanded to include other land and wildlife management agencies.  A product of the workshop was the development of a species tracking matrix. This matrix will be used to identify and prioritize conservation actions for species and track progress as the species goes through the ESA listing decision.

The ESAIWG has agreed to hold quarterly conference calls to update each other on activities. Various species-specific workgroups have been formed and will report back to the ESAIWG.