For Immediate Release: September 29, 2003
Environmental Groups Ask Fish and Wildlife Service to
Tallahassee, FL - The Center For Biological Diversity, represented by Earthjustice, filed suit today to compel the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to designate critical habitat for the St. Andrew beach mouse, as required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The rare mouse was listed as endangered in 1998, but the FWS has refused to specify the areas of habitat that are critical to the species’ recovery, or the measures that should be taken to preserve those areas.
The St. Andrew beach mouse lives exclusively in dune habitats along
the Gulf of Mexico, and it is a critical indicator of the health of
the coastal ecosystem. They are shy, nocturnal animals that are rarely
seen by humans and do not move into dwellings. Due largely to unregulated
coastal development, erosion and vehicular damage to its sand dune
habitat, the St. Andrew Beach Mouse now survives in only a small portion
of the St. Joseph Peninsula in the Florida Panhandle. The St. Andrews
beach mouse population is estimated at as few as 500 individuals; the
FWS estimates that the minimum population necessary to sustain the
species is several thousand.
The refusal to designate critical habitat for the St. Andrew beach mouse is only one of hundreds of such decisions by the FWS, beginning in the late 1980s. Under the ESA critical habitat is the area that is needed for recovery of threatened and endangered species, and it receives special protections against federal actions that might harm it. However, the FWS for many years refused to designate critical habitat for most species, claiming that it was a waste of time and provided no benefits. Several courts have directly rejected this argument as contrary to the terms of the Endangered Species Act, and held that critical habitat must be designated to assist in the recovery of species.
“The St. Andrew Beach mouse and other endangered species need the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s help, not excuses that the courts have turned down time and again,” said Sidney Maddock, Environmental Analyst with the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of endangered species and habitats throughout North America.
Earthjustice is a non-profit law firm which assists individuals and organizations in protecting air, water and biodiversity through advocacy in the courts.