June 8, 2017

Federal agency admits plan to continue ignoring law

By Christina M. Martin Attorney

When it comes to following the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seems to think it is immune from the rules. Often we have to twist arms and file lawsuits to force it to formally acknowledge any improvement in the status of species listed as endangered or threatened under the Act. Nevertheless, the Service’s latest response to the golden parakeet petition surprised me.

In April, we sent the Service a letter warning that we will sue on behalf of our client, the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA), unless the agency issues a finding on the AFA’s petition to either delist the golden parakeet or exempt US breeders from counterproductive permit requirements. Under the deadlines imposed by the Endangered Species Act, the agency should have issued this so-called 12-month finding more than one year ago.

Yesterday, the Fish and Wildlife Service responded to our April letter. It assured us that the Service considers completion of the required review a “priority.” It is such a priority that the Service will complete it by the end of September 2018. That means the federal agency intends to take 41 months to do what the law requires it do within 12 months. If this is how the Service treats a “priority,” then imagine how it handles less important cases.

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American Federation of Aviculture v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Thanks to the efforts of private breeders, the golden parakeet is no longer threatened with extinction. Although the federal government acknowledges the bird’s tenfold increase in numbers, it has refused to comply with a law that requires it to make a final decision to delist or downlist the parakeet within 12 months of that finding. On behalf of a coalition of breeders and bird owners, the American Federation of Aviculture, PLF is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force it to comply with the law, reclassify the golden parakeet, and lift onerous restrictions that prevent breeders from selling to all other breeders.

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