ESA news: policy clashes over energy issues, litigation over fish, and conflicts between listed species and the military
Energy concerns have been at the heart of numerous recent policy debates over the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. The Department of Interior's efforts related to the dunes sagebrush lizard continue to generate controversy. As reported in the Texas Tribune, the Texas House of Representatives recently approved a resolution calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to rescind its proposal to bring the lizard under the Endangered Species Act. Some New Mexico lawmakers agree. See El Paso Times. Legislators fear the potential impacts of ESA-related requirements upon the energy industry. But elsewhere, the Bonneville Power Authority is sometimes stopping the operation of area wind farms (offering hydropower energy instead) to respect regulatory and wildlife concerns, and to prevent the "overgeneration" of excess energy. See OregonLive. But in other significant policy news, changes to the Department of Interior's policies regarding the meaning of a "significant portion of the range" will impact preble's meadow jumping mouse, reports theNew York Times.
Meanwhile, the litigation drum keeps beating. Right on schedule, the Center for Biological Diversity formally notified the National Marine Fisheries Service today that it intends to sue the agency for failing to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act. CBD's petition, originally filed with NOAA on May 24, 2010, alleges that the tuna faces extinction due to overfishing (see photo below from BrightHub of bluefin tuna for sale at Tsukiji Fish Market), habitat degradation, and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (David Suzuki says we should stop eating the fish, too.) And the Rome News Tribune offered a helpful summary of the tri-state water wars between Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
The U.S. Military is also increasingly caught up in Endangered Species Act issues. As the Tucson Citizen notes, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has multiple disputes with the military over its effects on endangered and threatened species, particularly in Fort Huachuca in Cochise County southeast of Tucson, Fort Irwion in California’s Mohave Desert, and on Okinawa. Military strikes are also not conducive to the well-being of the threatened Mohave ground squirrel, which makes its home in Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave Desert. See
Government Computer News. And at Fort Bullis, the Army faces challenges with impacts to the golden cheeked warbler. See San Antonio Express. But if proposed legislation to amended the Equal Access to Justice Act passes, then the U.S. military may not have to pay attorney's fees to the litigants. See Tucson Citizen. And in California, some legislators are embracing the idea of an ESA exemption for salmon, smelt and the Sacramento Delta. See San Francisco Chronicle.
And finally, the White House has made available the Department of Interior's Preliminary Plan for Retrospective Regulatory Review, and the document includes numerous recommendations related to the Endangered Species Act, including changes to: Critical Habitat Mapping, Conservation Agreements, State Roles In Listings, Critical Habitat Designations, Adverse Modification, Incidental Take Statements, and the interplay of FIFRA and the ESA. Hat Tip to Steve Hall, Moderator of U.S. Endangered Species Act Practitioners on LinkedIn.