PLF sues California regulators for not monitoring protected species
SACRAMENTO, CA; February 24, 2016: Attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation have just sued the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), to force it to perform overdue status reviews for 233 species that are listed as “endangered” or “threatened” under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).
Donor-supported PLF is the leading legal watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations.
In this lawsuit, launched today in San Diego County Superior Court, PLF attorneys represent the California Cattlemen’s Association.
CESA requires that the status of every listed species be reviewed every five years. (Cal. Fish and Game Code, Section 2077). The DFW has listed 235 species for more than five years, but it has conducted the required five-year status reviews on only two of them — the Swainson’s hawk and the California least tern. The rest have not been monitored under the five-year review process mandated by law. PLF’s lawsuit — a petition for writ of mandamus — asks the courts to declare that the DFW is in violation of law for failing to monitor these 233 species in a timely manner, and to order the agency to move forward with status reviews on all of them, as required by California Fish and Game Code Section 2077.
“This lawsuit seeks to ensure that species protection in California is pursued with integrity, effectiveness, and accountability to science and the rule of law,” said PLF attorney Wencong Fa. “The state’s failure to monitor protected species is an abdication of both legal and environmental responsibilities, and a violation of public trust. It is unfortunate that the Department of Fish and Wildlife has to be sued to do its duty and conduct five-year reviews, because keeping current on the condition of protected species is fundamental for credible regulations.”
Conducting timely status reviews isn’t just common sense – it’s the law
“The law requires five-year status reviews for an obvious, commonsense reason — so regulators can base decisions on up-to-date scientific information,” Fa continued. “Timely reviews allow officials to determine whether there is a need for a change in a species’ listing and in the level of regulatory protection. Indeed, keeping current on the status of listed species is the only way to monitor the effectiveness of regulatory protections.
“Periodic status reviews also safeguard property owners from unnecessary regulatory burdens imposed for species that no longer need protection,” Fa continued. “And five-year reviews protect taxpayers — and the cause of efficient environmental policy — by making sure resources are focused on species that need them, and not diverted to species that are out of danger.”
Feds update the status of species — while the state stalls
The list of plants listed as “endangered” or “threatened” under the CESA is available at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=109390&inline.
The list of animals listed as “endangered” or “threatened” under the CESA is available at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=109405&inline.
“Tellingly, seven of the species listed under California’s ESA law have already been reclassified or recommended for reclassification by federal officials under the Federal ESA,” Fa noted. “Because California officials have not conducted status reviews on any of those species within the last five years, they have no idea whether reclassification is also appropriate under state law.”
Those seven species are the Beach Layia (found in Humbolt County, Marin County, Monterey County, and Santa Barbara County); Santa Cruz Cypress (San Mateo County and Santa Cruz County); Modoc Sucker (Lassen County); Least Bell’s vireo (found in 20 counties in both Northern and Southern California); and the San Clemente Island Indian Paintbrush; San Clemente Island larkspur; and San Clemente Island bush-mallow.
(Note: This federal updating of species listings came about as a result of earlier PLF legal action that prodded federal officials to conduct their own overdue five-year status reviews of federally protected species, as required by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.)
Plaintiff: The California Cattlemen’s Association
In the lawsuit against DFW, PLF attorneys represent the California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit trade organization founded in 1917 to represent beef cattle producers in legislative and regulatory affairs. The association currently has over 3,000 individual members and 38 affiliated county or multi-county cattlemen’s associations located throughout California. CCA has members in every county in California, and its members raise cattle in every county except for San Francisco. The beef cattle industry contributes over 26,000 jobs and more than $1.5 billion annually to California’s agricultural economy.
Beef cattle producers own or manage approximately 38 million acres within California. A substantial number of CCA members own or manage properties inhabited by species listed as either “threatened” or “endangered” under the CESA. Because species listings can impose economically harmful regulatory restrictions on grazing and other responsible property use, CCA members have a vital interest — along with all taxpayers and everyone who values sound, informed environmental policy — in ensuring that the status of listed species is reviewed as required by CESA, so that listings and regulations reflect accurate, up-to-date science.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation is the leading legal watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, free enterprise, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations. PLF represents all clients without charge.
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