September 10, 2013

Spurring the Fish and Wildlife Service into action

By Brian T. Hodges Senior Attorney

Good news for fans of smarter environmental regulation: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined this week that delisting or downlisting five southwestern plant and animal species from the endangered species list may be warranted, as a result of a petition from PLF.  In fact, the Service has been recommending reclassification of those species for years, but the agency didn’t do anything about it until PLF got involved.

The five species are the gypsum wild-buckwheat, black-capped vireo, Kuenzler hedgehog cactus, lesser long-nosed bat, and Tobusch fishhook cactus.  The Service completed legally required status reviews for those species from 2005 to 2010, and recommended either delisting or downlisting in each case.  When the agency did not initiate the reclassification process, PLF (joined by an Arizona rancher and several agriculture groups from New Mexico and Texas) filed a petition asking the Service to follow through with its recommendations.  We then sued the Service last May when it failed to comply with the mandatory deadline for responding to our petition.  Now, years after recommending reclassification and months after being sued, the Service has at last published a finding confirming that our petition—which is based on the Service’s own reports—shows that reclassification for all five species may be necessary.

The Service will accept comments on the proposal until November 8, and then finalize its decision at a later date.

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