Thursday, October 06, 2011

Acting to Endanger Species

Remember this "groundbreaking" settlement deal that Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians cut with the feds last summer? The one in which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to provide timely and/or date certain listing decisions?

Question: How's that working out?

Answer: The agency has been issuing a slew of findings, right on time. However, so far, the decisions are mostly to deny species' protection under the ESA. Including the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, the Mohave ground squirrel, the Northern leopard frog-- all clear cases of species tanking in the US due to loss of habitat-- and yet, USFWS inexplicably finds ways to keep them off the list.

So, MORE QUESTIONS: can these determinations be litigated as Section 4 merits challenges? Can other organizations bring litigation to challenge these determinations? Is there anything in the agreements precluding litigation by CBD or WEG about the determinations for any time frame?

1 comment:

EnviroDuck said...

This posting asks important questions about the species settlement agreements. We are pleased to provide answers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to publish petition findings, listing determinations, and critical habitat designations for more than 700 species in FY 2011 in accordance with Exhibit B in WildEarth Guardians’ agreement. The agency reportedly provided all required decisions to the Federal Register on September 30 and there are only a few left to be published.

Not only is the agency on schedule posting their decisions, but the majority of them advance protection for imperiled species. The agency has proposed to list 39 species under the ESA in the past 12 months, and finalized listing for 14 species-—most of them with proposed or final critical habitat. The Service has also issued positive petition findings for more than 450 species and added 25 species to the candidate list.

The settlement agreements require the Fish and Wildlife Service to post a certain number of decisions each year, but we could not dictate the outcome of those decisions. The agency is still responsible for determining which species are warranted and not warranted for protection in accordance with its usual decisionmaking process under the Endangered Species Act. Not surprisingly, some species have been found not warranted for listing, which is disappointing. However, neither WildEarth Guardians nor Center for Biological Diversity are constrained from instantly challenging negative decisions in federal court. Other organizations and individuals may also challenge any of the negative determinations issued for species covered in the settlement agreements.

WildEarth Guardians