The Stephens Kangaroo Rat may be coming off the list of protected species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Last week, the United States District Court for the Central District of California accepted a proposed settlement between the Riverside County Farm Bureau, represented by Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Per the settlement, the Service must issue a final finding on the Farm Bureau's petition to delist the k-rat from the ESA by July 30, 2010.
This case is an unfortunate example of the Service's inability to meet the ESA's statutory deadlines. Under the ESA, the Service is supposed to make an initial finding on a delisting petition within 90 days of its receipt. Here, the Farm Bureau submitted its delisting petition in 1995, but the Service did not respond until 2004, when it stated that the petition had merit and deserved an in-depth review. At that point, the ESA requires that this in-depth review be completed within a year, but the Service had not acted by late 2009, five years late. So the Farm Bureau, represented by PLF, filed suit to force the Service to act.