Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Posts Tagged ‘FWS’

Wholesale Species Listings Wholly Rotten

We never thought we’d write one of those sophomoric “What do X and Y have in common” leads, but never say never. Here we go:

Nevares Spring naucorid bug

What do the Amargosa tryonia, American wolverine, ashy storm petrel, Big Bar hesperian, black-footed albatross, Brand’s phacelia, California golden trout, canary duskysnail, Casey’s June beetle, cinnamon juga, disjunct pebblesnail, flat-top pebblesnail, globular pebblesnail, goose creek milk-vetch, knobby rams-horn, Lost Creek pebblesnail, Mardon skipper butterfly, Mohave ground squirrel, Mojave fringe-toed lizard, Mono Basin sage grouse, Nevares Spring naucorid bug, nugget pebblesnail, Orcutt’s hazardia, Oregon spotted frog, Pacific fisher, potem pebblesnail, Ramshaw Meadow sand-verbena, Red Mountain buckwheat, Red Mountain stonecrop, San Bernardino flying squirrel, San Fernando Valley spineflower, Shasta chaparral, Shasta hesperian, Shasta sideband, Shasta Springs pebblesnail, Sierra Nevada mountain yellow-legged frog, Siskiyou mariposa lily, Siskiyou sideband, Soldier Meadows cinquefoil, Sprague’s pipit, Tahoe yellow cress, Tehachapi slender salamander, Tehamana chaparral, umbilicate pebblesnail, Vandenberg monkeyflower, Webber’s ivesia, western fanshell, western gull-billed tern, western yellow-billed cuckoo, Wintu sideband, Xantus’s murrelet and Yosemite toad have in common?

Answer: They’re all from California – and they were all just pushed forward towards endangered species listings following smoke-filled-room negotiations between America’s premier environmental litigation mill, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (We’ll leave you to imagine what kind of smoke filled that room … maybe it was Vandenberg monkeyflower smoke … maybe not.)

We are familiar with the Red Mountain buckwheat, San Fernando Valley spineflower and the Tehachapi slender salamander through our regulatory communications work. We are also familiar with the Endangered Species Act and how it’s supposed to work. This isn’t it.

The species are among 757 species pushed forward towards listings as a result of an “historic” settlement of one of the Center’s nearly countless lawsuits.  (Why do the big environmental organizations always say everything they do is historic? Are they seeking eternal purpose?) They call it historic; we call it mind-numbing and a travesty.

The Endangered Species Act has a process to be followed for petitioning for a species to be listed, and for the review of those petitions. The members of Congress who approved the Act never imagined such wholesale actions as this, brought about by legal strong-arming instead of scientific analysis.

The Service is supposed to make the decision whether or not to move a species forward towards the listing process based on scientific findings presented in the listing petition, not litigation. Affected parties are supposed to weigh in on the petitions as interested parties – but were they in the smoke-filled rooms? No.

The CBD has become very adept at forcing these sorts of actions, which remind us of the mass weddings the Rev. Moon puts on – sure the numbers are impressive, but how deep is the knowledge all those brides and grooms really have of each other? How deep was the knowledge the Service’s negotiators had of the 757 listing petitions before them? How could they be at all familiar with the immediacy of the threat to 26 birds, 31 mammals, 67 fish, 22 reptiles, 33 amphibians, 197 plants and 381 of those cute and cuddly invertebrates spread across all 50 states?

Clearly, the listing petitions didn’t get the attention they deserved, and the public didn’t get the process it is entitled to under our Constitution.

Do we think the Endangered Species Act to ever be implemented through a rational, science-based, fair process? No. We’ve been called upon because of our regulatory communications and public affairs expertise to promote several ESA reform efforts over the years and we know what it’s like to bang our heads repeatedly into a Sacred Cow.  Still, it would be nice if the most egregious excesses in its implementation, like today’s example, would go extinct.