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Fish & Wildlife Service Fails to Perform Mandatory Status Reviews for Nearly 200 Species in California: PLF Announces Lawsuit to Compel Species Status Checks
Contact: Dawn Collier
Phone: (916) 419-7111
Sacramento,CA; December 17, 2004: The federal government has failed to conduct status reviews mandated under the Endangered Species Act for nearly 200 of California’s listed species, according to a legal challenge announced today by Pacific Legal Foundation. In a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), PLF notified the agency that if it did not begin or schedule the status reviews within the next 60 days, PLF will sue to compel the agency to meet its statutory responsibility to review the status of listed species at least every five years.
The agency has a nondiscretionary duty to perform the status reviews under Section 4(c)(2) of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. Section 1533(c)(2). After the review, the government must determine whether the listed species should have its status changed (i.e., either lowered from endangered to threatened or raised from threatened to endangered), or if the species should be removed from the list because protection is no longer needed.
However, according to PLF, FWS has failed to conduct the statutorily required status reviews for about two-thirds of the 298 species listed in the state. As a result, PLF says the government has no way of knowing if listed species require more or less protection, or if they have been recovered and can be removed from the endangered or threatened list.
“The Endangered Species Act should be protecting only the species that truly need protecting,” said PLF principal attorney Rob Rivett. “The Fish and Wildlife Service has a mandatory duty to review the status of every listed species every five years, but it doesn’t do it.”
“How does the public know if species protections are actually working if the government doesn’t conduct the review of the species’ status? We’re asking the agency to do what the Endangered Species Act requires it to do,” Rivett said.
PLF argues that the continued listing of species that no longer need special protection means that burdensome land use restrictions are being unnecessarily imposed on California property owners. These restrictions are causing economic and bureaucratic burdens that are particularly devastating to the state’s agricultural industry.
“California’s economy is being held hostage by regulatory restrictions to protect species, yet many of those species may no longer need protecting,” said Rivett.
Rivett said the status review requirement benefits species because the review may reveal that a species’ status should be changed from threatened to endangered, invoking greater
protections. In addition, species that remain listed but no longer need protection absorb government resources and millions of taxpayer dollars that could otherwise be invested in the protection of species that truly need it.
“The government has a duty to ensure that taxpayer-provided resources are not being wasted on species that no longer need protection,” Rivett said.
PLF is representing the California State Grange, the California Cattlemen’s Association, and the California Forestry Association.
MEDIA KIT DOCUMENTS
Pacific Legal Foundation’s 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue
List of Species in Need of a Five-year Review and Affected Counties
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