USFWS Eases Off Effort to Curtail Citizen Participation in Species Protection

In the summer 2015 edition of the AWI Quarterly, we told you about an alarming proposal from the US Fish and Wildlife Service that would create serious roadblocks for private citizens wishing to petition the agency to protect imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act.

In the USFWS proposal, individuals or organizations petitioning to have a species listed for protection under the ESA would need to contact every state in the range of the species and attach any and all information that these states wish to have included with the petition. Further, the petitioner would be required to obtain the state’s certification that all such information has been included before the petition could be filed with the relevant federal agency.

The problem? In far too many cases, the state is adamantly opposed to the ESA listing—and to modifying any land use activities in the state that may be contributing to the species’ imminent demise. The burden on the petitioner to solicit and attach information from recalcitrant states—coupled with the need to get them to certify their satisfaction before the petition can move forward—would provide such states with a golden opportunity to wrap the process in red tape.

AWI vigorously opposed this proposal, and called on its supporters to do the same. The fierce opposition apparently had the desired effect: In a revised proposal announced April 19, the USFWS backed off the more onerous elements of the original. Under the revision, petitioners would still have to notify the states, but it would then be up to the states themselves to submit pertinent information or hold their peace. No longer would petitioners have to gather information and wrest a certification from stonewalling states. (The USFWS also eased the burden in connection with a second element of the proposal concerning inclusion of multiple species.)

Thanks to all AWI supporters who wrote to the USFWS and helped bring about this welcome result.

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