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Center for Biological Diversity:
Historic Victory for 757 Species
E&E News, June 28, 2013

Lawsuit aims to force FWS decisions on 10 creatures
By Phil Taylor

The Center for Biological Diversity yesterday filed a new lawsuit to force the Interior Department to determine whether Endangered Species Act protections are needed for a rare high-mountain fox, a giant salamander, two birds, a lizard, a crayfish and a mussel.

The lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia argues that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to issue final listing decisions on the species within the 12-month time frame provided by the law.

Yesterday's filing seeks protections for species including the Sierra Nevada red fox, which CBD argued is one of the most endangered mammals in the world. Impacts from logging, grazing, poisoning, trapping and motorized vehicles have led to a significant decline in the fox's population in Northern California and possibly southern Oregon, the group said.

Fewer than 50 of the animals are known to survive, said CBD, which petitioned to list the fox in 2011.

"It's going to take an all-hands-on-deck effort to save this gorgeous fox from extinction, but that effort won't get going until the fox is granted the effective protection of the Endangered Species Act," said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at CBD.

The lawsuit also seeks protection for the eastern hellbender, a giant salamander found in streams from New York to Mississippi that grows longer than 2 feet. Dams and water pollution threaten the hellbender with extinction, CBD said.

Also mentioned in the lawsuit are the Bicknell's thrush, which lives in the mountains of the Northeast, and four Florida species: the Florida Keys mole skink, MacGillivray's seaside sparrow, Panama City crayfish and Suwannee moccasinshell. Those species are threatened by climate change, rising sea level, drought, groundwater depletion, pollution and development, CBD said.

The lawsuit is allowed under a 2011 settlement CBD struck with Fish and Wildlife that required the agency to issue final listing decisions on more than 250 candidate species and initial decisions on hundreds more (Greenwire, Jan. 11).

Under that settlement, CBD agreed to limit deadline lawsuits -- which target the agency's ability to comply with the ESA's decision time frame -- to 10 species per year. The species in this latest lawsuit represent the group's quota for fiscal 2013.

A separate lawsuit filed in January resulted in the proposed designation of critical habitat for the loggerhead sea turtle in March

The agency in April agreed to issue final listing decisions by 2018 for 10 species CBD sued to protect in 2012, including a rare Pacific Northwest mammal, an Arizona orchid and four species of springsnails (E&ENews PM, April 29).

Republicans and some industry groups have attacked the groups' 2011 settlement, arguing that it was struck behind closed doors and sets arbitrary listing deadlines that could hamper energy development nationwide.

But wildlife advocates and FWS have argued that the settlement will allow the agency to implement the 1973 species law more efficiently by limiting the procedural lawsuits that had bogged it down for years.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton