On Friday, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Debra Haaland, for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Administrative Procedure Act.
According to the complaint, the Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit corporation headquartered in Arizona that is actively involved in species and habitat protection issues including petitioning for the listing of imperiled species as endangered or threatened.
The complaint states that the defendant, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior with the primary authority for administration of the ESA. Further, the complaint states that Secretary Haaland has the ultimate responsibility to administer and implement the provisions of the ESA as Secretary of the Interior.
The plaintiff alleges that the defendants have failed to adequately protect seven “candidate” species by failing to list them as threatened or endangered under the ESA. According to the complaint, a “candidate” species is a species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined warrants protection and a listing of either endangered or threatened under the ESA. The seven species listed in the complaint are the Okinawa woodpecker, Kaiser-i-hind swallowtail, Jamaican kite swallowtail, black-backed tanager, Harris’ mimic swallowtail, fluminense swallowtail and southern helmeted curassow. The plaintiff argues that these species have been stuck in “regulatory limbo” for decades, deserving of the ESA’s protections without receiving them.
The complaint states that the defendants have responded to petitions for the seven species to receive protection under the ESA by stating their listing is “warranted but precluded” by other listing actions. Under the ESA, it is purported that a listing of a species may be found “warranted but precluded” only if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is making expeditious progress in adding qualified species to the lists of endangered and threatened species.
The plaintiff alleges that the defendants determination that the species at issue are “warranted but precluded” is in violation of the ESA the defendants have failed to make expeditious progress in adding qualified species. Further, the plaintiff argues the determination that the species are “warranted but precluded” is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act as arbitrary and capricious because the defendants failed to demonstrate or describe how the species are precluded.
The plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that the defendants are unlawfully depriving these species protection under the ESA, an order that the defendants immediately publish proposed rules for the seven species and an award of attorney’s fees. The plaintiff is represented by their own in-house attorneys.