FWS restricts how ESA petitions are filed

Rule eliminates ability to submit multi-species petitions and requires petitioner to notify every state where imperiled species may live.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service finalized new rules Monday that restrict the ability of organizations to obtain Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for species on the brink of extinction. The new rules eliminate the ability of the public to submit multi-species petitions and require that, 30 days prior to submitting a petition, the petitioner must notify every state where an imperiled species may live.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC) applauded FWS for taking steps to address what they see as “rampant abuse” of the ESA listing process.

“We have been pushing for reforms to the broken ESA listing process for quite some time, and this final rule is a great step in the right direction,” said Ethan Lane, NCBA federal lands and PLC executive director. “Limiting petitions to one species at a time will provide some desperately needed focus, and notification to the states affected in a timely manner – even if only 30 days – is progress toward increasing local input into the process.”
 
ESA, which is continuously abused by radical environmental groups, has a less than 2% recovery rate. Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity threaten litigation in order to force agency action on hundreds of species, without any regard for a recovery plan or actual species recovery. This continued abuse hampers real conservation efforts and species recovery by forcing arbitrary ESA listing decisions that leave no time for sound research or science-based decisions.
 
“Serious groups from across the spectrum that are engaged in true conservation will applaud these changes,” Lane said. “By the same token, the habitual high-volume ESA abusers will be pretty easy to spot by their opposition to the rule.”

The Center for Biological Diversity said the ruling discourages citizen petitions, which the group said will make it harder to get species the protections they need. The center said citizen petitions routinely identify species at the highest risk of extinction, and the majority of the protections given to 1,600 species to date have been in response to citizen petitions. Filing a petition triggers what is supposed to be a two-year process that includes three public comment periods. “Unfortunately, the Fish & Wildlife Service routinely violates this legal requirement, often taking more than a decade to complete the process. Delays in protection of species have had significant consequences, with more than 40 species having gone extinct while waiting for protection,” the group said.

“The Endangered Species Act already requires a lengthy comment process that gives states additional privileges and multiple opportunities to provide input on the status of imperiled species. These rules are specifically intended to intimidate ordinary citizens by making it more cumbersome for them to seek protection of our imperiled plants and animals,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

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