Eastern Black Rail Listing Update

In October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced their proposal to list the Eastern Black Rail subspecies as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). After a review of the best available information, the Service determined the subspecies meets the definition of threatened because it is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all, or a significant portion of its range. Population estimates for the entire Atlantic Coast Joint Venture area range from just 355-815 breeding pairs.

The Service is proposing a rule under the ESA’s Section 4(d) which would tailor protections for the bird and prohibit certain activities in known Eastern Black Rail habitat during critical time periods, such as nesting and brooding seasons, and post-breeding flightless molt periods. These activities include fire management, haying, mowing, and other mechanical treatments, intensive grazing (only on public lands), and other forms of direct and incidental take outlined in the Federal Register notice. In addition, fire management activities must use best management practices to minimize impacts to the subspecies and its habitat at all times. The proposed rule would exempt mowing and mechanical treatment of rights-of-way, fire breaks and transmission corridors from the ESA’s “take” prohibitions to ensure public safety and meet operational needs for existing infrastructure.

The Service is not designating critical habitat for the Eastern Black Rail at this time due to concerns that identifying such areas may attract birders seeking out these shy and elusive birds, placing additional stress on the subspecies.

The Service has accepted comments on the proposed rule and is currently reviewing them with a final rule expected by October 9, 2019. For more information visit: https://www.fws.gov/southeast/wildlife/birds/eastern-black-rail/