I'm gonna go "minority expressed opinion" here and suggest ESA "threatened" listing for EDB would not be very helpful for the snake or for conservation in particular or in general. ("Endangered" status just ain't happening, it's not worth any more discussion.) Let me toss out a few supporting points. Not saying I'm right, or anyone else is wrong, just saying there's a lot to consider:
At the species level, by way of comparison, look at the indigo snake. We've all seen plenty of occupied indigo habitat get developed since that snake was listed in...what? 1978 or so? Legal commercial trade in wild-caught snakes was halted, which helped a lot, but...it's loss and fragmentation of habitat that threatens them most now (and probably did in the 60s and 70s too...). Their recovery plan is now 30 years old (a travesty...). Progress on that plan has been minimal (see the 5-year review from 2008 http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc1910.pdf
). The snake is still declining. See the 5-factor analysis in the status review.
I readily concede indigo does not equal EDB. Other than EDB being far more reviled than the indigo, as a technical matter in-situ EDB conservation should be a bit easier - for example EDBs seem able to persist on smaller tracts of land, and they seem less vulnerable to roadkill, because they crawl around a lot less. But the basic qualitative habitat requirements are pretty similar - some frost-proof refugia, not too much shade, and a prey base.
Which takes me to the next point - a listing would add substantial impediments to active "conservation-management" of occupied EBD habitat - whether burning, mowing, bush-hogging, roller-chopping, logging, whatever. Hello more NEPA, hello bummer. More than anything else (protection from intentional killing, protection from harvest, protection from roadkill, etc etc) besides protection from land-use intensification, all xeric-upland wildlife needs active habitat management
. I have been intimately engaged in xeric-uplands management for wildlife in Florida, and doing the NEPA can be a Royal pain in the ass. Pushing the paper sucks. It is a waste of time and money, and it does little or nothing for the species. The law that Congress wrote and has amended a number of times can be interpreted
by FWS to require more attention be paid to accidentally killing one individual, than to maintaining or improving the habitat (thus survival prospects) for an entire population. Depending on which FWS Ecological Services Field Office (in FL there are 3 - Vero Beach, Jacksonville, and Panama City) has "lead" on the plant or animal in question, that interpretation can be the one a manager has to deal with. Vero has lead on indigo. Jax has lead on sand skink. I wonder who would have lead on EDB.
Now the last item - this is a delicate time in national politics. ESA does not need to keep being used as a hammer; it could be broken. Many many conservative policymakers would love to de-authorize ESA next time it comes up for review (happens every 5 years). Or they could just defund ESA implementation by bleeding that program of USFWS dry. Congress writes the check after all. I do not believe ESA does no good for conservation - quite the contrary. But it cannot do everything, and it is not the tool
to deal with the sickness in this country & world that drives the ever-accelerating consumption & degradation of the geosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere.
So - I think a lot more could be done for EDB conservation without resorting to a tactic that wouldn't do much good, and would do much harm for EDB & associated species' habitat management, and could be catastrophic for conservation in general. Also, I just don't happen to believe a listing is warranted, and I suspect the FWS will find the same, and the whole thing will have taken time and money from higher priorities. I see so stinking much of that it (obviously...) drives me halfway frigging nuts.