Despite landmark settlements requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to review the status of hundreds of species currently listed as candidate species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), conservation groups continue to file lawsuits to force listing decisions.
For example, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) recently filed suit in an effort to force the Service to make final listing decisions for four freshwater aquatic species—the Barrens darter (Etheostoma forbesi), holiday darter (Etheostoma brevirostrum), Atlantic pigtoe mussel (Fusconaia masoni), and slenderclaw crayfish (Cambarus cracens)—under the ESA. According to CBD, the species, found in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, are at risk of extinction due primarily to water pollution and dams.
CBD also filed suit last week to force a final listing decision with respect to the black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) in California, Oregon, and South Dakota, the San Bernardino flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus californicus) in southern California, and the Ichetucknee siltsnail (Cincinnatia mica) in Florida.
Finally, CBD filed suit challenging the recent listing of the lesser prairie chicken as threatened under the ESA. As we reported here, the Service announced the final rule listing the species in March 2014. Because the species was listed as threatened, rather than endangered, the final rule includes section 4(d) exemptions, which allow for incidental take of the species associated with activities conducted pursuant to approved habitat conservation plans. CBD is challenging the final rule, arguing that the serious threat of extinction to the prairie chicken across its entire range warrants listing the species as endangered, rather than threatened.