PLF prepares to sue over government's failure to review ESA petition

March 30, 2012 | By BRIAN HODGES

PLF attorneys sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today, notifying the agency that we are preparing to sue it for failing to make a required finding on a petition to reclassify six ESA-listed species in California and Oregon.  Last December, PLF and several agricultural organizations petitioned the Service to delist and/or downlist the Inyo California towhee, arroyo toad, Indian Knob mountainbalm, Lane Mountain milk-vetch, Modoc sucker, and Santa Cruz cypress.  The petition was based entirely on the Service’s own scientific data, which recommended reclassification of each species.

The ESA requires the Service to determine whether the petition presents “substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted” within 90 days of receiving the petition.  In our case, the Service failed to make any finding within 90 days, saying it would get to it later.  The problem is the Service doesn’t have that option under the law.

The Service’s treatment of our petition is just another example of a disturbing trend.  The agency frequently fails to revise the listing status of recovering species until sued, even when its own data show that reclassification is necessary.