October 11, 2010

Our federal government: quick to regulate, slow to liberate

By Our federal government: quick to regulate, slow to liberate

Author: Brandon Middleton

You may recall that Pacific Legal Foundation recently filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, asking the agency to remove the valley elderberry longhorn beetle from the list of federally-protected species under the Endangered Species Act.   The basis for PLF's petition was the Service's own 2006 study which indicated that the beetle species–which inhabits riparian areas throughout California's Central Valley–has recovered since it was originally listed as a threatened species in 1980.

Although the Service has recognized that the valley elderberry longhorn beetle has recovered, the agency is still acting as if the beetle is a threatened species, with little regard for the costs that accompany its excessive regulation.

For example, PLF client Bob Slobe cannot develop his land and provide needed jobs to the Sacramento community because the Service has designated his land as "critical habitat" for the beetle.  And instead of using their limited resources for flood control and human safety issues, PLF's irrigation and flood control district clients have had to devote tens of thousands of dollars towards mitigation efforts for the beetle.

PLF's petition asked the Service to stop wasting time and money on a beetle that does not require federal protection.  The petition received good coverage from Fox & Friends and the Redding Record Searchlight, which poignantly suggested that "[i]f we’re going to spend millions — yes, millions — of taxpayer dollars and burden private landowners with tough federal rules to protect a rare bug, the precious insect ought to actually be threatened or endangered."

Sacramento's ABC News10 also ran this story which highlights the predicament of PLF clients Bob Slobe and Reclamation District 784:

 

 

I think a lot of the media coverage had to do with the common sense notion that a recovered species like the valley elderberry longhorn beetle should not be improperly classified by the federal government as a threatened species.  But the federal government doesn't always act with common sense.

That's why we were disappointed, but not surprised, when the Service sent PLF attorneys this letter indicating that the Service would only begin review of our petition sometime in fiscal year 2011.  In other words, even though the Service is required to make every effort to respond to ESA petitions in 90 days or less, the Service has in effect given itself at least a year to respond to the beetle petition.  This is on top of the fact that it has been more than four years since the Service first recognized that the beetle is in fact not a threatened species.

In terms of going forward, we'll be considering our options with our clients over the next several weeks.  In the meantime, the valley elderberry longhorn beetle remains an expensive thorn in the side of the regulated public, thanks in large part to the Service's failure thus far to delist the species.  Isn't it tragic that, in a time where politicians are so quick to regulate our everyday lives, it takes our federal government so long to get off our backs?

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