SAN DIEGO — California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials have responded to a suit filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation accusing the government of being derelict in its protection of 233 animals found on the state’s endangered-species list by insisting it lacks sufficient information to either confirm or deny the allegations.
PLF staff attorney Wencong Fa told The Northern California Record that the case is now in the discovery phase of proceedings and a definite trial date has yet to be determined.
A news release posted on www.pacificlegal.org indicates that PLF officials previously filed a writ of mandamus request in San Diego County Superior Court, hoping it would prompt the court to force the agency to “perform overdue status reviews” in all the instances that remain in question.
DFW staffers were given until Dec. 23 to formally respond to the petition.
Currently, the law stipulates that the status of every species listed as endangered be reviewed every five years. In its petition, PLF officials contend that of the 235 species currently on the list, timely checks have only been performed for the Swainson's hawk and the California least tern.
“We ask the court to make sure that all these overdue reviews are done sooner rather than later,” Fa said. “We realize they all can’t be done in a day, but we ask that the order stipulates they propose a timeline for the completion of all of them. It’s an affront to the law that the reviews aren’t now being carried out as they should be.”
PLF staffers have also alleged that the government has been so lax in owning up to its responsibilities that gatekeepers aren’t even aware that at least seven of the species still listed on the endangered list have long since been reclassified by federal authorities more attuned to the situation.
The list of the seven species includes the Beach Layia (found in Humbolt County, Marin County, Monterey County, and Santa Barbara County); Santa Cruz Cypress (San Mateo County and Santa Cruz County); Modoc Sucker (Lassen County); Least Bell’s vireo (located in 20 counties in both Northern and Southern California); and the San Clemente Island Indian Paintbrush; San Clemente Island larkspur; and San Clemente Island bush-mallow.
“Periodic status reviews are huge for the public interest in terms of protecting the environment and making sure conditions are just,” Fa said. “Reviews are foundational to the protection of California wildlife and five-year reviews protect taxpayers by making sure resources are focused on species that need them and not diverted to species that are out of danger.”
PLF attorneys filed suit on behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association, a near-century-old nonpartisan, nonprofit trade organization that advocates for government legislation designed to benefit beef cattle producers and others in the industry.
The association currently touts more than 3,000 members and has at least 38 affiliated county and mini-county associations across all of California. Beef-cattle producers also own or manage approximately 38 million acres within California and the industry accounts for better than 26,000 jobs and annually adds more than $1.5 billion to local agricultural economy.