Representing the California Cattlemen’s Association, PLF filed a petition for writ of mandamus to have declared unlawful the department’s failure to conduct mandatory 5-year status reviews of 233 plant and animal species listed as “endangered” or “threatened” under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). By abdicating its duty to conduct these mandatory reviews, the state unlawfully failed to determine which species could be downlisted, where such downlisting would restore to landowners productive use of their property.
The California Endangered Species Act requires the Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct status reviews of species listed as threatened or endangered every five years. The state legislature, in enacting the Act, recognized the immense value that plants and animals bring to California residents. The Act aims to restore threatened and endangered species to the point at which the Act’s protections are no longer needed. That purpose cannot be furthered without knowledge of the current status of California’s wildlife. The mandatory 5-year status reviews provide that knowledge.
The Department’s failure to conduct mandatory status reviews means that the State and its residents might be wasting millions of dollars to protect species that are actually thriving, potentially at the expense of those species that are actually endangered. And it means that State might be ignoring certain species that need more protection under the Act. Without the status reviews, the government is blindly regulating without any understanding of whether the regulation is needed or effective. This offers no benefit to California’s wildlife. On behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association, which has many members deprived of the use of their land to benefit listed species, PLF sued to enforce the Act after the Department failed to conduct mandatory reviews for 233 species.