On Thursday, May 23, 2019, the Center for Biological Diversity and San Francisco Baykeeper sued the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California for failing to protect eight highly imperiled species in the United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the longfin smelt, Hermes Copper butterfly, Sierra Nevada red fox, red tree vole, eastern gopher tortoise, Berry Cave salamander, Puerto Rico harlequin butterfly, and marrón bacora all warrant protection as afforded under the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1544. The plaintiffs are suing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to actually provide protection as mandated by the law. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that listing the eight species in question as endangered is “warranted but precluded” by the agency’s work on other higher priority species. The Endangered Species Act requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make such a finding only if the agency is making “expeditious progress” to “add qualified species” to the list of species provided protection, and if the time and resources necessary to make “progress” precludes work on other imperiled species. The statute also requires U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to publish an annual determination that listing a species is warranted, not warranted, or warranted but still precluded from protection.
The plaintiffs argue that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not making expeditious progress in listing other species under the Endangered Species Act, thus denying needed legal protection to the eight highly imperiled species in question. To date, the Trump administration has listed only 17 species under the Endangered Species Act. President Obama’s administration listed 72 species under the Endangered Species Act in its first two years in office. President Clinton’s administration listed 196 species under the Endangered Species Act in its first two years in office. The 17 listings in two years by the current U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the fewest protected by any administration since the Reagan administration. The plaintiffs continue on to allege that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is thereby violating its obligation to publish its new findings regarding the eight species in question because the agency cannot, under the circumstances, make such a determination.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit corporation based in Tucson, Arizona working “through science, law, and policy to secure a future for all species, great or small, hovering on the brink of extinction.” San Francisco Baykeeper is a non-profit public benefit corporation based in Oakland, California that works to “protect the water quality of San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary. . . for the benefit of its ecosystems and its human and wildlife communities.”
Lawsuit Aims to Force Trump to Protect Endangered Species Nationwide, Center for Biological Diversity (May 23, 2019)
Center for Biological Diversity, Inc. et al v. Bernhardt et al (Case 3:19-cv-02843)