- Proposed Changes to Endangered Species List Will Decrease Amount of Land Subject to Restriction
- June 20, 2011
- Law Firm: Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland Perretti LLP - Morristown Office
The NJDEP has proposed amendments to the current Endangered, Nongame and Exotic Wildlife Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:25-4, including the state’s list of endangered species. The proposed amendments would, among other things, change the status of several species, based on the Department's analysis of the latest available information. As a result of these proposed changes, those areas in the state deemed "habitat" for threatened and endangered species will change, with an overall net decrease. Areas that are documented as "habitat" are subject to regulatory restrictions on land use.
Currently the rules use several defined terms to describe the status of various species: endangered, threatened, special concern, declining, extirpated, increasing, introduced, peripheral, special case, stable and undetermined. The proposed changes would streamline the descriptions by eliminating all defined categories except for endangered and threatened, and by adding the categories Special Concern, Secure-stable and Undetermined-Unknown. "Special Concern" species warrant special attention by the Department because of inherent vulnerability to environmental deterioration or habitat modification. In addition, the proposed changes would make a distinction between "breeding population[s]" and "non-breeding population[s]" of bird species, based on each species’ respective nesting season, and will assign different statuses where necessary. For example, breeding populations of bald eagles will continue to be classified as endangered, but the status of non-breeding populations will be changed from endangered to threatened.
The NJDEP is also proposing to amend the endangered species list to add 11 species as either endangered or threatened, downgrade the classification of five species from their current listed status to either threatened or endangered, and upgrade the current status of eight species from their current endangered or threatened status to a category of lesser concern. When a species is listed as either endangered or threatened, its habitat is subject to regulatory protection, including restrictions on permissible land use and disturbances.
Although the NJDEP's proposed amendments to the list of species would increase the total number listed as either endangered or threatened, the amendments would result in a net decrease of approximately 31,000 acres of land presumed to comprise habitat for those species. This is due in part to the overlap of habitat for listed species. Therefore, while the applicable regulatory restrictions on some land will increase if the proposed regulatory changes are adopted, the total amount of land in the state subject to such restrictions will decrease.