ESA in the news: turtles, smelt, lynx, wolves, salmonids and... walrus?
It was once a George Carlin Joke: what do you do if you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant? But the Center for Biological Diversity doesn't share the laugh, and has filed a petition to list the western gull-billed tern, with one of its two U.S. breeding sites at San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, because the species is "threatened by a Fish and Wildlife Service plan to reduce its population by destroying eggs. " As the CBD press release explains: "The control effort is intended to protect two other endangered seabirds: the western snowy plover and the California least tern."
FWS won't be alone as it grapples with the unanswerable questions, because federal judges are presiding over new incarnations of lawsuits that have evaded resolution for decades. An AP story appearing in the MercuryNews.com notes that Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sea Turtle Restoration Project filed a complaint in San Francisco asking that populations of loggerheads in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans be upgraded from threatened to endangered. Upstream, water users and property rights advocates in the Sacramento Delta -- probably tired of intervening in environmentalist-initiated litigation -- have filed lawsuits of their own. A recent PRnewswire report mentioned a water users lawsuit arguing that decisions to manage water for the delta smelt failed to comply with the best available science, and the Fresno Bee discussed the Pacific Legal Foundation's claim that the protection of an endangered delta smelt is an unconstitutional violation of the commerce clause. The lynx is back in court too, with conservationists seeking to expand the species critical habitat, but this time, according to the New York Times, "the suit is thought to be the first legal challenge of a habitat designation brought on the grounds of climate change." See also, the Summit Daily News. The LA Times reports on the endless gray wolf litigation related to the listing, delisting, and relisting of the species.
Perhaps most notably, in response to Judge Redden's recent letter to the Obama Administration (see prior ESA blawg) discussing the Federal Columbia River Power System litigation, columbian.com notes that "Idaho’s two U.S. senators are both calling for a regional dialogue in an effort to forestall a judicial takeover of the river system," while Seattle's crosscut.com thinks about a future involving tearing down dams.
While sea turtles, wolves, lynx, and salmon may be familiar subjects of ESA litigation, CBD may soon add the walrus (photo above from CITES.org) to the list of species debated in the courts. Based on a recent court-approved settlement, the Fish and Wildlife Service must make an initial finding on the Center’s petition requesting protection of the walrus by September 10, 2009, with a subsequent decision as to whether the species should be protected the following year. And CBD continues to break new ground with its ESA-based protest of a water-right application that would be used to facilitate the development of a nuclear power plant at Green River, Utah. But what the new administration will do is anybody's guess. David Suzuki, writing for Canada.com, thinks that the Obama Administration's "support for the Endangered Species Act signals a 180-degree turn for the U.S. government. Then again, AmericanThinker.com gave "one and a half" cheers to the President and Secretary Salazar for agreeing with the Bush Administration on the polar bear 4(d) rules, but rejecting the previously-adopted regulations amending the ESA consultation process.
For a few other noteworthy ESA-related stories, visit:
- Boston Herald reports about the U.S. Department of Justice case against a Massachusetts man who allegedly engaged in illegal importation and illegal trafficking of sperm whale teeth; and
- The Orlando Business Journal story on The Florida Homebuilders Association's petition to downgrade the status of the endangered wood stork — prevalent in Central and South Florida — to “threatened.”