Author: Damien M. Schiff
Today, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced its finding on the Riverside County Farm Bureau's petition to delist the Stephens Kangaroo Rat from the Endangered Species Act. The finding is the result of a PLF-led lawsuit on behalf of the Farm Bureau challenging the Service's failure to issue a timely finding on the delisting petition.
Unfortunately, the Service decided today to retain the rat as an endangered species, concluding that there is insufficient protected habitat for the rat in Riverside and San Diego Counties to justify a delisting. The Service's finding completely ignores the Farm Bureau's argument that the rat's original 1988 listing was unwarranted, because the Service then inaccurately estimated how much available rat habitat is out there, and, relatedly, how many rats are needed to form a viable population. Rather, the Service's finding today simply focuses on how things have purportedly changed for the worse for the rat since its listing.
Yet even on that score, the Service's finding seems misguided. After all, since the rat's listing, scores of acres of habitat have been put aside for the rat in Riverside and San Diego Counties. Moreover, Riverside itself has two habitat conservation plans designed to protect the rat and its habitat. Yet, none of the positive factors was sufficient to convince the Service that the rat doesn't belong on the ESA lists.
Both PLF and the Farm Bureau will analyze the Service's finding closely to determine whether a follow-up lawsuit would be appropriate.