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PLF Sues Government to Compel Missed Status Reviews for Nearly 200 Species in California

Sacramento,CA; March 22, 2005: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to conduct mandatory status reviews required under the Endangered Species Act for nearly 200 of California’s listed species, according to a lawsuit filed today by Pacific Legal Foundation. PLF’s suit seeks to compel the government agency to meet its statutory obligation to review the status of every listed species at least every five years.

Under Section 4(c)(2) of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. Section 1533(c)(2), the government must determine whether, based on current best available science, each listed species should have its status changed (i.e., either lowered from endangered to threatened or raised from threatened to endangered), or have its status as a listed species removed because protection is no longer justified.

According to PLF’s complaint, the Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to perform the reviews for at least 193 species, or about two-thirds of the 298 species listed in California. As a result, PLF says the agency has no way of knowing if hundreds of species need more or less protection, or if they have been successfully recovered.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service has a statutory duty to review the status of endangered species every five years, but it doesn’t do it," said PLF Principal Attorney Rob Rivett. "How is the public supposed to know if protections are working if the government doesn’t evaluate whether a species is doing better or worse? We’re simply asking the government to do what the Endangered Species Act requires it to do."

Rivett said the status review requirement can benefit species by revealing that a species’ status should be changed from threatened to endangered, thereby invoking greater protections. In addition, species that remain listed but no longer need protection divert resources from species that actually need them.

"The Endangered Species Act should be protecting only those species that actually need protecting. The government may be wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on species that don’t need protection, instead of using those dollars to protect the species that are truly at risk," said Rivett.

PLF also 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.

"Californians face tremendous financial and bureaucratic burdens because of onerous regulations to protect species. Instead of holding the state economy hostage, federal officials ought to be doing everything they can to cut some of the red tape. The government should be keeping the endangered species list current, rather than leaving species to languish there indefinitely," Rivett said.

PLF is representing the California State Grange, the California Cattlemen’s Association, and the California Forestry Association.

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Pacific Legal Foundation is the nation’s oldest and largest public interest legal organization dedicated to defending private property rights. PLF is a national leader in the effort to reform the Endangered Species Act and raise awareness of the act’s impact on people. PLF’s headquarters are in Sacramento, California.

List of Species in Need of a Five-Year Review

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