March 27, 2018

How many times can California violate the law? At least 231.

By Wen Fa Attorney

The government doesn’t usually admit that it has failed to follow the law. Yet the California Department of Fish and Wildlife did just that, and acknowledged that it has failed to conduct status reviews of 231 species listed as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The Act requires the Department to conduct these reviews every five years. Yet the Department claims that a court can’t stop it from flouting the law, because it alleges that the reviews are inconsequential to the public. Today we asked the San Diego Superior Court to order the Department to conduct these reviews, because they are extremely important to a wide range of California citizens.

First, status reviews are important to property owners. To further its purpose of protecting the environment, CESA imposes a host of restrictions on property owners. Property owners cannot develop their land if doing so would have alter the habitat (or even the potential habitat, in some cases) of a listed species. It can even be illegal for property owners to move a listed species from their property. It makes little sense to impose these onerous restrictions on property owners when a species is neither threatened nor endangered. Yet that is exactly what happens under an Endangered Species Act without status reviews.

Second, status reviews are important to environmentalists. As the Department acknowledged, the State’s resources are limited. Thus, every dime that goes into protecting species that are actually thriving is spent at the expense of protections for species that are currently threatened or endangered. That’s precisely why status reviews are so important: to ensure that funding dedicated to protecting endangered species actually go toward protecting endangered species.

Third, status reviews are important to taxpayers. With the tax-filing deadline just weeks away, Californians know how important it is to have the State use their money in an efficient way. The status reviews are important in furthering that end, and ensure that your hard-earned money aren’t directed toward government waste.

The status reviews are important to all Californians. Here’s hoping that the Court will make sure they happen.

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California Cattlemen’s Association v. California Department of Fish and Wildlife

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.

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