For Immediate Release, May 17, 2011
Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495
Judge Halts Settlement Over Hundreds of Endangered Species, Orders Parties Back to Negotiations
WASHINGTON— In response to opposition by the Center for Biological Diversity, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan today stayed approval of a controversial settlement agreement between WildEarth Guardians and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until June 20 and ordered all parties, including the Center, back into mediation.
WildEarth Guardians reached a settlement with the agency last week to potentially move 839 imperiled species toward federal protection, including final protection decisions for 251 species that have been stuck on the “candidate” list, many for decades; but the Center objected that the agreement was too weak, too vague and ultimately unenforceable. The Center also objected to the fact that 87 percent of Endangered Species Act petitions affected by the agreement were petitioned or litigated by the Center and thus needed to be resolved with the Center’s approval.
“Today’s ruling gives us an opportunity to fix this deeply flawed agreement,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “These plants and animals need a strong, binding agreement that guarantees their protection.”
The Center was particularly concerned about terms in the agreement that would allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to unilaterally withdraw its commitment to list species, exclude a number of critically imperiled species, including the Pacific walrus and American wolverine, and limit protection of other imperiled species in the future.
“Protection of all the candidate species is long overdue,” said Greenwald. “The Fish and Wildlife Service can save these species — and respond to citizen petitions that call for increased attention to severely endangered plants and animals — by improving efficiency and reducing bureaucratic red tape.”