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Forcing the Government to Implement Its Own Laws

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Peñasco least chipmunk

There was a downside to the environmental movement’s transformation from a mass movement to one that relied on fundraising to litigate through the courts. But that litigation was indeed necessary because the nation passed all sorts of environmental legislation in the 1960s and early 1970s and then policymakers immediately regretted it, especially with the rise of the conservative movement and reinvigorated corporate lobby by the late 1970s meaning that American politics were totally different. Thus, the lawsuit.

Of course, the Trump administration was god awful on all environmental issues. This has led to another round of lawsuits to list species under the Endangered Species Act. Even though Biden is president now, those lawsuits need to go on because we need this stuff on the books and the necessary changes implemented.

Decisions by the Trump administration to withhold endangered-species protections for the northern spotted owl, monarch butterflies and other imperiled wildlife and plants could be set aside.

That’s the goal of a conservation group’s lawsuit Thursday, challenging inaction on petitions to extend Endangered Species Act protections for several species that warranted them.

The Center for Biological Diversity claims the Trump administration knowingly kept 10 species that needed immediate ESA protections in waiting. All the species listed in the lawsuit were given “warranted but precluded” decisions, meaning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized the species needed federal listing but did not have the resources to list them.

In addition to the spotted owl and the monarch butterfly, other species covered by the lawsuit are the eastern gopher tortoise, longfin smelt, magnificent ramshorn, Texas fatmucket, Texas pimple back, Texas fawnsfoot mussels, peñasco least chipmunk and the bracted twistflower.

“Continued delay of protections for 10 species, including the northern spotted owl and the monarch butterfly, is unlawful,” Center for Biological Diversity’s Endangered Species Director Noah Greenwald said. “This relates to the Trump administration’s just abysmal record on protecting species under the Endangered Species Act.”

Greenwald said the former administration only listed 25 species as either threatened or endangered over the course of four years. He said it is the lowest number of species that have been listed for federal protections since the law’s 1973 passage.

Greenwald said conservationists had reached an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under President Barack Obama to work through a backlog of 260 species that scientists and officials had determined to warrant protections under the Endangered Species but precluded them from the list of protected plants and animals. That backlog had been reduced but persisted into 2017, when Donald Trump entered the White House.

“And of course didn’t make a whole lot of progress on it,” he said.

Kind of surprised that 25 species were listed in the Trump administration. In any case, good to see this go forward. The Center for Biological Diversity does excellent work and deserves support.

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