Author: Daniel Himebaugh
Today we learned that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–the agency in charge of administering the Endangered Species Act–will be initiating status review of four species listed as endangered or threatened in Washington State: the northern spotted owl, Oregon silverspot butterfly, showy stickseed, and Wenatchee Mountains checkermallow. The Service's announcement comes on the heels of a PLF lawsuit seeking a court order requiring the Service to review those species.
The ESA requires the Service to review the status of all listed species at least once every five years. This is a very important provision because it forces the Service to continually reassess whether listed species are correctly designated. Without periodic review, species can linger on the endangered species list, even while new scientific data shows that they should not be there. This can result in perpetual restrictions, which harm property owners, and stifle economic activity.
The Service, however, characteristically fails to complete status reviews. This means that oftentimes status reviews will not be completed until legal action is taken. While we are pleased that the Service has decided to initiate the status reviews at our prompting, there is no good reason why litigation should be the impetus for the Service's decision to undertake status reviews, which are clearly required by the ESA.
PLF will continue to monitor this situation and will be ready to act where necessary to make sure that the Service is administering the ESA appropriately.