On December 24, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) released its annual Candidate Notice of Review (CNOR) summarizing the status of species that qualify as candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The 2015 CNOR identifies all species designated as candidates and explains the changes to the candidate list from the 2014 CNOR.  The Service assigns each candidate species a “listing priority number” (LPN) indicating the magnitude of the threat to a species’ continued existence (with one being the highest priority, and twelve being the lowest priority).  The assessment of magnitude is based on the imminence of the threat and then categorized by a species’ taxonomic status.

In this year’s CNOR, the Service changed the LPN for two candidate species:  (1) the Hirst Brothers’ panic grass (Dichanthelium hirstii) and (2) the Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis).  Specifically, the Service changed the immediacy of threats to the Hirst Brothers’ panic grass from non-imminent to imminent and raised its LPN.  In contrast, the Service determined that threats to the Whitebark pine are decreasing in magnitude and therefore lowered its LPN.  The Service also determined that two species of Anchialine pool shrimp (Metabetaeus lohena and Palaemonella burnsi) occurring in the Hawaiian Islands are no longer likely to become endangered and therefore removed them from the candidate list.  The 2015 CNOR includes greater details regarding the status of these species and identifies 60 candidate species total.

The CNOR also provides summaries of the Service’s listing over the past year.  These summaries describe actions made pursuant to ESA Section 4, including the publication of final rules for listings for 31 species (including the Northern Long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), Rufa Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa), and Dakota Skipper (Hesperia dacotae)), proposed rules for listings of 67 species (including 49 species from Hawaii, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus), and Suwanee Moccasinshell (Medionidus walkeri)), not warranted findings or withdrawals of proposed rules for 24 species (including the Greater sage grouse(Centrocercus urophasianus) and Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai)), and positive 90-day findings for 67 species (including the Rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), and California Gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica)).  A list of all of the species for which the Service acted pursuant to ESA Section 4 in 2015 can be found in the CNOR.  The CNOR also reports the status of actions subject to court order, such as those arising out of the 2011 listing settlements.