Yesterday, PLF filed a lawsuit in federal court in Riverside, California, to challenge the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s continuing failure to issue a final determination on the Riverside County Farm Bureau’s petition to delist the Stephens’ kangaroo rat from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Farm Bureau submitted its original delisting petition in 1995. The petition argued that the rat’s 1988 listing was unfounded, principally because the listing substantially underestimated the amount of available rat habitat and the size of existing rat populations.
Under the ESA, the Service is required to make an initial finding on a delisting petition within 90 days. Yet remarkably, the Service did not issue the required finding on the Farm Bureau’s petition until April, 2004. At that time, the Service determined that the petition had merit and deserved an in-depth review. The ESA directs that this second review be completed within one year. Although the Service’s review was required to be completed by April, 2005, the Service to this day has failed to make the legally mandated finding. PLF’s lawsuit will ensure that the Service’s continued flouting of the ESA’s statutory deadlines will come to an end.