The Service previously established a critical habitat area for the Sucker in 2005, but decided to double the critical habitat area after being sued in 2007 by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), an Arizona-based group that frequently files suit against the Service to challenge its decisions.

“The Service never stated why its 2005 ruling was insufficient, nor has it provided any new scientific information to justify an expansion of critical habitat for the Sucker,” Milligan said.

Water agencies believe the Service expanded the critical habitat area for the Sucker merely to pacify the CBD, even though the group has not been actively involved in efforts to conserve or protect the Sucker.

“As far as we know, the Center for Biological Diversity has never been an active participant in conservation efforts involving the Sucker, which makes their motives highly suspect,” Milligan said. He added that water agencies have no record of CBD representatives participating in Santa Ana Sucker Conservation Team meetings that have taken place during the past decade.

Inland water agencies filed suit against the Service four months after they publicly warned the Service that they would pursue litigation unless the Service rescinded its 2010 habitat ruling.

In their notice of intent to file a lawsuit, water agencies reminded the Service that they have spent the past 10 years successfully developing and implementing a Santa Ana Sucker Conservation Program that is already working to recover and restore habitats for this endangered species in collaboration with the California Department of Fish and Game. The program has produced significant research, including reproductive monitoring surveys, the development of population estimates, increased project management, habitat surveying and mapping as well as invasive species removal.

Agencies that are participating in the lawsuit against the Service include Bear Valley Mutual Water Company in Redlands; Big Bear Municipal Water District; City of Redlands; City of Riverside; City of San Bernardino Municipal Water Department; East Valley Water District in Highland; Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District; San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District; San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District; Western Municipal Water District in Riverside; West Valley Water District in Rialto; and Yucaipa Valley Water District.

For more, see:

Fish and Wildlife Service often sued for failing to do homework

Sucker habitat threatens proposed Inland Empire water facility