ESA news: ongoing litigation over actions and inactions, and lawsuits over actions yet to be thought of...
Lawsuits, as usual, dominated recent Endangered Species Act news. Alaska filed suit challenging the designation by FWS of critical habitat for polar bears. See SitNews. The Pacific Legal Foundation says critical habitat designations for green sturgeon will cause conflicts too. See YouTube. Plans to allow off-road vehicles in Florida's Big Cypress Preserve have led to a Notice of Intent to Sue based upon alleged impacts to Florida panthers and other species. See Sierra Club. And the Ninth Circuit heard arguments on the delisting of the Grizzly bear. See AP.
While agency actions are the subject of much litigation, so too is agency inaction. Increasingly, to the frustration of many environmental advocates, the federal regulatory agencies are exercising their discretion NOT to list species by relying upon the ESA's "warranted but precluded" concept, as was the case for the Flat tailed horned lizard (see LA Times). a Nevada butterfly known as the Mount Charleston blue (see Federal Register and Center for Biological Diversity). In the case of the butterfly, FWS explained that nearly the entire range of the species is located on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, "so habitats on these lands are not subject to large-scale development pressures that may occur on private lands." Still, environmental advocates fear that the result of a failure to list a species will be more extinctions, like the recent declaration of the fate of the Eastern Cougar? See Scientific American.
Alexander Crowell poses with the famous Barnard Panther, which he shot on November 24, 1881 at Barnard, Vermont. This was likely the last eastern cougar killed in Vermont. (Photo from the Vermont Historical Society. Caption and photo from Northeast Region FWS.
Meanwhile, with the increasing attention placed upon the Endangered Species Act, interest groups have become more sensitive to the long-term potential for human-wildlife interactions and similar conflicts. Environmentalists want to list the African lion, see Fact Sheet, but Safari Club International argues that responsible hunting of the species increases revenues for conservation efforts. See Field & Streams. Skiers in Colorado are concerned that plans to eventually reintroduce wolverines into alpline locations could lead to unwelcome restrictions on human uses. See Aspen Daily News. Farmers are concerned that expanding the scope of the ESA to require consultations on pesticides will lead to new restrictions and decreased productivity. See KFGO. Energy advocates want new legislation limiting environmental review of new energy projects. See NY Times. Indeed, hostility to the ESA has grown to the point that the New York Times dubbed Republicans for Environmental Protection as "Endangered Species."
P.S. How about this interview exchange between former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Talk Radio Conservative Hugh Hewitt, (recently published in The Atlantic):
Hewitt: Now I want to start, since we’re at the Nixon Library, I’m going to get to Nixon. But before I do that, I once asked President Nixon in his retirement why he signed the Endangered Species Act, and he said well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. You co-sponsored FOIA, the Freedom Of Information Act. What were you thinking?
Rumsfeld: It seemed like a good idea at the time.