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Suit Targets Trump Administration for Failing to Protect Threatened CA Species

Federal protection for the tri-colored blackbird would hamper government eradication efforts designed to protect crops. (Monte M. Taylor/Wikimedia Commons)
Federal protection for the tri-colored blackbird would hamper government eradication efforts designed to protect crops. (Monte M. Taylor/Wikimedia Commons)
January 9, 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A new lawsuit soon to be filed accuses the Trump administration of failing to make important decisions on the fates of dozens of species, including two in California: the tri-colored blackbird and the American wolverine.

On Tuesday, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt over the failure of the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service to make decisions on whether to list 26 species as threatened or endangered, or on whether to protect critical habitat. Noah Greenwald, the center's endangered-species director, said it's more than a case of backlogs at the agency.

"They're dragging their feet, for sure," he said. "This is definite foot-dragging, and it's just consistent with the Trump administration's antipathy toward environmental protections."

In response to a similar suit in 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a work plan to reduce the backlog and promised to make decisions on the tri-colored blackbird and wolverine by the end of last year. The Endangered Species Act lays out a timeline for such decisions, but the agency continues to miss deadlines.

The administration also has proposed weakening the Endangered Species Act by striking language that instructs federal agencies to ignore economic impacts when making conservation decisions. The call on whether to list the tri-colored blackbird is almost three years overdue.

Greenwald noted that the bird's range extends through the central and southern California coast and the agricultural areas of the central valley, where the birds have been targeted as pests.

"They're often targeted for killing, along with red-winged blackbirds, by farmers," he said, "and they've been in steep decline and are cause for concern."

The lawsuit also asks for a decision on protecting the American wolverine, whose once sizable population in California has dwindled to just one known animal living in the Tahoe National Forest.

The lawsuit notice is online at biologicaldiversity.org.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA