The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is failing to decide whether to protect 241 plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act, an environmental group says in a new lawsuit filed in a Washington federal court.
The agency, under the Trump administration, allegedly hasn’t made findings on petitions to list 231 species as endangered or threatened. It also hasn’t publish final determinations for six species nor finalized critical habitat for four species, according to the lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The lawsuit says the delay is increasing the risk of extinction, causing more species declines, and making recovery more difficult and expensive.
Species named in the lawsuit include the western bumblebee, northwestern moose, Venus flytrap, and spotted turtle.
“The extinction crisis gets worse by the day, but Trump officials are twiddling their thumbs as plants and animals fade away,” said the center’s endangered species director Noah Greenwald. “It’s a moral failure of epic proportions.”
The lawsuit says the agency is failing to adhere to a schedule under its own National Listing Workplan, which was created in 2016 to address a backlog of more than 500 species awaiting final decisions on federal protections.
Most of the species have been waiting more than a decade for decisions that are required under the ESA to be completed within 12 months, according to the complaint. The group says at least 47 species have gone extinct while waiting for protection since the act was passed in 1973.
“Delays in protections for species have real consequences,” Greenwald said.
The Trump administration has listed only 21 species as endangered or threatened, fewer than any other administration at this point in its term.
The Obama administration listed 360 species at a rate of 45 per year, 523 species were listed under the Clinton administration and 232 species were protected under former president George H.W. Bush.
David Bernhardt, secretary for the Department of the Interior, was also named in the lawsuit.
Cause of Action: Endangered Species Act
Relief: Declaratory and injunctive relief; attorneys’ fees and costs; an order forcing the agency to publish overdue findings and critical habitat designations by a certain date.
Response: The Fish and Wildlife service hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
Attorneys: The Center for Biological Diversity is representing itself.
The case is Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt, D.D.C., No. 1:20-cv-00573, 2/27/20.