Environmental group sues U.S. for leaving 10 species in ‘regulatory purgatory’

The gopher tortoise is one of 10 species the Center for Biological Diversity says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has left in "regulatory purgatory." Photo courtesy of Randy Browning/USFWS

April 2 (UPI) — The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday for failing to designate 10 species as endangered despite admitting they needed the governmental protective status.

The non-profit environmental organization said the former Trump administration kept these 10 species in “regulatory purgatory” by saying they needed endangered species designated protection but denying them it over a lack of funds and higher priorities.

“The past four years were a dark period for endangered wildlife and the environment overall,” Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director at CBD, said in a statement. “We’re bringing this lawsuit to ensure these 10 species that so desperately need help are prioritized by the Biden administration, which has its work cut out for it to undo the incredible harm done under [President Donald] Trump.”

Following a lengthy review process, the government classified the 10 species — the northern spotted owl, monarch butterfly, Penasco least chipmunk, gopher tortoise, longfin smelt, magnificent ramshorn snail, bracted twistflower and three Texas mussels — as “warranted but precluded” due to other higher priorities, the lawsuit states.

The CBD said in the filing that there is no legal justification for the FWS’ “foot-dragging and bureaucratic delays” from granting the species the protection, stating its failure to do so violates the Endangered Species Act as it must make “expeditious progress” to add their names to the species-saving list.

The non-profit organization argues that the government’s claim of making expeditious progress is baseless as the Trump administration on average listed the fewest number of species as endangered or threatened than any other administration.

According to the CBD, only 25 species were protected as either threatened or endangered during the Trump administration despite the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service developing a plan in 2016 to list some of the 500 species awaiting protection.

The lawsuit was filed after the CBD sued the Trump administration last February for failing to decide on whether 241 plant and animal species should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, which currently awaits decisions.

“The center hopes to work out a schedule with the Biden administration and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to ensure these species don’t go extinct,” the non-profit said.

According to the lawsuit, at least 47 species have gone extinct while awaiting protection under the Endangered Species Act.


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