The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to perform status reviews for all 194 California species that Pacific Legal Foundation filed suit earlier this year to compel.

Although the Endangered Species Act requires that the government review the status of listed species every five years, the Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to perform the reviews for about two-thirds of California’s listed species. A federal court approved a settlement between the Fish and Wildlife Service and PLF.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to perform all of the reviews over the next eight years, with the first wave of reviews beginning by the end of this month. The agency agreed to prioritize the species reviews according to how much is known about the species in question and how onerous their listing has been for California property owners and businesses.

"The government has recognized that there is no justification for failing to comply with the law. This settlement allows the Fish and Wildlife Service the time to do a thorough analysis of each species, and make sure that taxpayer dollars are only being spent on species that truly need protecting," said Pacific Legal Foundation Principal Attorney Rob Rivett.

‘Owes determination’

"When federal regulation is restricting land use, raising home prices, and killing jobs, the government owes it to Californians to do the work necessary to determine if those regulations are actually necessary," said Rivett. "We expect this effort will allow Californians to get back to work building the schools and homes they need that have been mired in gridlock because of outdated listings."

Under Section 4(c)(2) of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. Section 1533(c)(2), the Fish and Wildlife Service must perform status reviews of listed species every five years to determine whether, based on current best available science, each listed species should have its status changed (i.e., either lowered from endangered to threatened or raised from threatened to endangered), or have its status as a listed species removed because protection is no longer justified.

Because the service has failed to perform the reviews for 194 of California’s 298 listed species, the agency has no way of knowing if the government is wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on species that no longer need protection or forcing burdensome and costly land use restrictions on Californians unnecessarily. The high cost of complying with land use regulations to protect species raises the cost of everything from homes to food in California, and significantly impacts the state’s economy, said PLF.

The plaintiffs in the case are the California State Grange, the California Cattlemen’s Association, and the California Forestry Association. A copy of the settlement, including a list of species and the timeline for the five-year reviews, is available at www.pacificlegal.org.