April 17, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS SUE FEDS OVER DEVELOPMENT PERMITTING IN PYGMY-OWL HABITAT
GROUPS TO SUE WILDLIFE AGENCY FOR FAILURE TO DEVELOP PYGMY-OWL RECOVERY PLAN
REPORT RELEASED DOCUMENTING BUSH'S STEALTH ATTACK ON WILDLIFE PROTECTION LAWS
Environmental groups are filing a lawsuit today against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency over the agencies' failure to consider and reduce the harmful effects of urban development permitting in Cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl habitat. In a related action, groups have notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of their intent to sue the agency over delayed release of a pygmy-owl recovery plan. Finally, groups have released a report exposing the Bush administration's systematic attack on federal wildlife protections.
The lawsuit against the Corps and EPA challenges the agencies' total disregard for the harmful effects of their Clean Water Act permitting of dozens of new urban developments in important pygmy-owl habitat. "It's the agencies from the planet Anarchy," said David Hogan, Urban Wildlands Coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity. "They behave as if laws to protect the desert simply don't exist."
For over two years the Corps has ignored a court ruling that they consider the harmful cumulative effects of new developments. The EPA also ignores this obligation, and both agencies illegally defer to developer's findings on whether harm will come to the environment. "The agencies have left the fox to guard the henhouse when they let developers decide whether projects will harm the environment," said Jenny Neeley, Southwest Program Coordinator for Defenders of Wildlife. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Defenders and the Center by attorneys with Defenders, the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest and Meyer and Glitzenstein.
Environmental groups also notified the Fish and Wildlife Service today of intent to sue the agency over delay of the pygmy-owl recovery plan. Interior Secretary Norton has responded to pressure from Governor Hull and developers and continues to hold back release of the plan. Burying the recovery plan is Norton and Hull's ploy to limit restrictions on development and undermine Pima County's Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. "This is a classic case of politicians meddling with science," said Hogan. "Since when did our old legal system get replaced with government by developers, for developers?" The notice was filed by the Center, Defenders, Audubon Society, Center for Wildlife Connections and Desert Watch.
Groups also released a report today documenting a series of stealth attacks by the Bush administration on federal wildlife protection laws. The report describes 21 examples of administration efforts to undermine wildlife protections, including the pygmy-owl. "The administration has repeatedly distorted science, ignored clear legal duties and cut backroom deals with anti-wildlife industries," said Senatore. "In Arizona, agencies' disregard for pygmy-owl protection and delay of the recovery plan are two examples of this administration's assault on America's wildlife protections." The report was prepared by Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition and the National Wildlife Federation.