Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Posted on Thu, Dec. 16, 2004


Group seeks status review on 198 California endangered species

Associated Press


Nearly 300 rare creatures, from the Arroyo Southwestern toad to the White sedge, are considered threatened or in danger of extinction in California, yet there has been no recent review whether two-thirds of the plants and animals still merit protection.

Every five years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to consider the 298 species' status under the Endangered Species Act, but it says it's so tied up in competing lawsuits from environmental groups and opponents that most decisions now are driven by judges' orders.

To prod the service to act, a conservative legal group will notify it Friday that it will add a new lawsuit in 60 days unless the agency starts or schedules status reviews on all 198 listed species that have gone unchallenged for five years or more.

"The reason is to ensure that the act is really working," said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Rob Rivett. The goal is supposed to be rescuing each species so that it no longer needs the special protections afforded by the 30-year-old law: "If you never review the species, you never know that. If they're trying to administer and enforce for species that don't need protection, that's a waste of money."

The suit would be the first of this scope, said Rivett, although environmental groups in Hawaii sued the service in the late 1990s to force critical habitat consideration for about 300 species there. California is second to Hawaii in the number of protected species.

In May, scientists including wildlife biologist Jane Goodall and environmental groups petitioned the Bush administration to list 225 plants and animals nationwide under the act.

Groups including the foundation have previously sued to force status reviews for individual species. The service must decide every five years if each species deserves to remain on the list, and if its status should be raised to endangered, lowered to threatened, or vice versa.

"The act is very, very clear" on what is required, Rivett said. "They're going to have to reach a formal agreement with us or we'll file a lawsuit."

Of the roughly 1,200 species listed nationally, none has ever been removed as a result of a status review - including recent reviews forced by the foundation of the Northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet, said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. He predicted no species would be removed if the service reviews all 198 California species as well.

"What the Pacific Legal Foundation is doing is exploiting a loophole in the law to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to waste what limited resources it has (on) essentially useless studies," Suckling said.

A copy of the foundation's formal 60-day filing was provided to The Associated Press as it was sent by overnight courier to the service for delivery Friday.

A similar sequence is planned for early next year in Texas, where the service has failed to conduct reviews for about 50 species, Rivett said.

Alex Pitts, the service's regional spokeswoman, said the wildlife agency has spent its limited money on saving species instead of counting them. Another expensive lawsuit won't help, she said.

"We get limited resources," she said. "We try to put as much of that on the ground, to recovery activities, as possible ... to actually see gains for those species."

While the service hasn't conducted formal status reviews in many cases, she said, "we keep track of how they are doing" and make decisions appropriately.

Environmental groups criticized the foundation's move.

"It would be nice if Pacific Legal Foundation supported enough funding ... so they can do what they're required to do," said Bill Allayaud, the Sierra Club's state legislative director.

By concentrating on listing species without determining if the species has been helped, "they're only doing half the job," countered California Cattlemen's Association President Mark Nelson. "The success rate (of the Endangered Species Act) is not very good and I think it's time we take another look at it."

Nelson cited his own frustration with restrictions on how he can use property near Sacramento that was deemed potential habitat for the protected giant garter snakes when "the closest sighting was, like, 11 miles away."

The foundation is representing the Cattlemen's Association, the California State Grange, and the California Forestry Association in filing the notice.

Welcome to Pacific Legal Foundation

Fish & Wildlife Service Fails to Perform Mandatory Status Reviews for Nearly 200 Species in California: PLF Announces Lawsuit to Compel Species Status Checks

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 . “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.

Pacific Legal Foundation’s 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue

List of Species in Need of a Five-year Review and Affected Counties

NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted
material  herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have
expressed  a  prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit
research and  educational purposes only. For more information go to:






Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2004, All Rights Reserved