Environmental Activist Groups Sues to Restore Arizonan Snake’s Endangered Status

On Thursday, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a complaint in the District of Arizona – Tucson Division against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland for their decision to deny Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections to the Tucson shovel-nosed snake.

Residing only in parts of Arizona, the Tucson shovel-nosed snake is “characterized by alternating black-and-red stripes over its cream-colored body” and only found in specific spots throughout one region of the state. Due to “agriculture and urban development,” they have lost more than 39% of their native habitat and now “nearly all of its remaining habitat is unprotected and vulnerable to development,” according to the complaint.

After the Center petitioned for the snake to be categorized as endangered, the Fish and Wildlife Service added the Tucson shovel-nosed snake to the endangered list in 2010. However, the Service concluded that the snake “does not warrant protection” and reversed their decision in 2014.

The complaint quoted Dr. Phil Rosen, who sent a letter to the Service in support of adding the Tucson shovel-nosed snake to the endangered species list. In his letter, he said that the snake is a “habitat specialist,” that it has experienced “severe population declines in the core of its range,” and that the snake’s range was “arbitrarily large and inconsistent with the best available scientific information.” Thus, the Center claimed that the Service’s ruling was arbitrary and capricious and that they violated the ESA and Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by removing the Tucson shovel-nosed snake from the endangered species list.

The plaintiff is seeking a declaration that the 90-Day Finding violates the ESA and APA and to vacate the finding, attorney’s fees and costs, and other relief.