Author: Daniel Himebaugh
The Endangered Species Act is all about making lists. Plants and animals are added to, and subtracted from, a list of protected species based on what the best available scientific and commercial data reveals about their current status and chances of future survival. A listed species receives certain legal entitlements. An unlisted species does not. Thus, it is imperative that listed creatures actually deserve protection, and that species that do not deserve to be listed stay off the list.
In order to safeguard against "mis-listing," the ESA requires the appropriate federal agency, usually the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to review the status of all listed species at least once every five years. Upon conducting this status review, the government must determine whether the species under review should be removed from the list, or reclassified. This is a mandatory requirement that keeps the list current, which in turn keeps the public on notice of which plants and animals are currently considered endangered.
Unfortunately, the government does not always conduct the required status reviews on time (if at all). Sometimes plants and animals stay on the list for decades before being reevaluated in light of updated scientific information. And as time goes by, more people become subject to restrictions governing the use of their property based on the potential presence of listed creatures, and more property owners are threatened with nasty fines and penalties for allegedly interfering with species that have not been reviewed for years.
There is really no excuse for this failure to review, which is why PLF has, in the past, sued the Service for failing to comply with the five-year status review requirement. Nevertheless, the government does not seem to have gotten the message, and PLF is this week preparing to file notice of intent to sue for the completion of more overdue five-year status reviews.