Environmental groups bury feds with Endangered Species petitionsby Hugh Holub on Apr. 22, 2011, under environment water and energy, politics
This from the New York Times April 20, 2011:
Amid flood of petitions, endangered species listings stall
By Todd Woody
New York Times
…“These megapetitions are putting us in a difficult spot, and they’re basically going to shut down our ability to list any candidates for the foreseeable future,” Mr. Frazer said. “If all our resources are used responding to petitions, we don’t have resources to put species on the endangered species list. It’s not a happy situation.”
Two environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians, have filed 90 percent of the listings petitions since 2007 and maintain that a bioblitz, as it is often called, is the best strategy for forcing the service to be more assertive in its wildlife protection mission.
“We want to compel the Fish and Wildlife Service to look at the full extent of the extinction crisis in the United States,” said Nicole Rosmarino, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, which is based in Santa Fe, N.M. “We would like a system where the service is actively looking for species that merit protection rather than the current system where groups like ours have to drive this process.”
WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity have filed more than 100 lawsuits against the Interior Department over listing delays involving some 1,100 species since 2007, according to government records. Under the act, the Interior Department must determine if a petition to list a species warrants further investigation within 90 days of its receipt. Officials acknowledge that the Fish and Wildlife Service invariably misses that deadline.
If the agency issues a finding that a listing may be warranted, it has 12 months to conduct a scientific investigation and make a final determination. That deadline is often missed as well, leading to more litigation.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a particularly formidable adversary. The nonprofit group, based in Tucson, has 20 lawyers on its staff in more than a dozen offices across the country. The center raised $7.5 million in 2009, according to its annual report, including $4.8 million from membership donations and $1.2 million in what it calls “legal returns” from cases….
The litigious environmental groups are using the New York Times to try and justify what they are doing and get more money for the feds to list more endangered species.
But there is another side to this story that needs exposing….
Under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), one can get attorney fees from the government if you successfully sue them to do what they are supposed to be doing.
Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) the feds have a short period of time to respond to a petition to list a plant or animal as endangered. If the feds don’t act within that time frame, the petitioner can sue the feds and basically there is no defense to the suit. The feds have to roll over and pay attorney fees to the group that filed the listing petition.
Thus, if a federal agency such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service has a limited budget to begin with, and an environmental group such as the Center for Biological Diversity or Earth Guardians petitions to have hundreds of plants and animals listed as being endangered, US Fish and Wildlife will default because they can’t process all the petitions within the deadline.
Then the group such as Center for Biological Diversity sues US Fish and Wildlife to force them to list the petitioned species, and seeks attorney fees. More often than not US Fish and Wildife gives the petitioner its attorney fees.
What we don’t know for sure…because the media has failed to investigate what is called “EAJA Abuse”… is how much money is Center for Biological Diversity and Earth Guardians are getting from US taxpayers in legal fees from filing these hundreds of petitions to list all these critters and plants.
There are reports that EAJA payments to groups like Center for Biological Diversity and Earth Guardians run into millions of dollars.
You will probably never see the Arizona Daily Star chase this story.
But the story must be followed and the truth be outed.
The solution is not to give US Fish and Wildlife more money to process the bioblitz of petitions. They have a lot of money…which is going to paying off litigious environmental groups and not to investigate the scientific validity of endangered species petitions.
What needs to be done is to repair the Endangered Species Act so that it cannot be exploited for attorney fees to fuel the efforts of groups like Center for Biological Diversity.
Those repairs include allowing US Fish and Wildlife more time to review and act on a petition to list an endangered species.
The scientific basis for a listing petition must be strengthened. And petitioners should not be allowed to gang bang the process with hundreds of listing petitions.
You can see from the New York Times article that the litigious environmental groups claim a crisis because of global warming.
But dig deeper. You will find that these groups and others like the Western Watershed Project have clear agendas that really have nothing to do with saving turtles and prairie dogs.
Just because a relict population of some critter could live in Pima County doesn’t mean it is really endangered if the same species is numerous in another location. Think Mexican Pygmy Owl fight…the owls are populous in Mexico but litigious environmental groups claim they are “endangered” around Tucson as a basis to try and block urban growth. The effort to “protect” the jaura in Arizona….numerous to the south, only occasional up here…but the effort is to create a habitat conservation plan to shut oeverything down here to jaguars can roam free in Arizona. The list goes on…there are many specious species listings and habitat conservation plan petitions aimed at shutting Arizona down.
Their goal…and sometimes they make it clear what that is…is to shut down all uses of public lands…kick off the ranchers, stop copper mining, block construction of electric transmission lines, fight new development of anykind so the West can be restored into a Garden of Eden like it was allegedly prior to Europeans colonizing North and South America.
Here is some interesting reading: