PLF petition: Drop Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle from federal ESA list
SACRAMENTO, CA; September 9, 2010: Attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation today filed papers with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, petitioning for removal of the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle (VELB) from the federal Endangered Species Act list. The case is Yolo County Farm Bureau v. USFWS.
PLF attorneys represent a broad coalition of landowners, businesses, farmers, and flood-control agencies harmed by unnecessary and unjustified ESA regulation of the VELB.
PLF is the leading legal watchdog for property rights and balanced environmental regulations. PLF litigation has led to more efficient use of environmental protection resources through, for example, removing the bald eagle from the ESA list, and reducing unneeded, unjustified habitat designations for such species as the Quino checkerspot butterfly and Peninsular bighorn sheep.
Federal officials have stalled on their own recommendation to delist the VELB
The VELB is found in California’s Central Valley, from southern Shasta County south to Kern County. “Critical habitat” designations include a zone in Sacramento between the Western Pacific railroad tracks and Commerce Circle, and areas along the south bank of the American River, including in the vicinity of Rancho Cordova’s River Bend Park.
Although the VELB has been listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act since 1980, in 2006 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a mandatory five-year review as part of a settlement agreement in a case brought by PLF attorneys. The review found the VELB should be taken off the ESA list. However, no action ensued.
“The feds aren’t acting on their own scientific recommendations with regard to the VELB,” said PLF attorney Brandon Middleton. “By stalling, and keeping this species on the ESA list when it doesn’t need to be, they’re hurting landowners and the economy – and diverting federal environmental resources from much more pressing needs.”
VELB listing harms landowners, farmers and job creation
In the midst of a deep recession, we should be facilitating economic development, not stifling it with unjustified restrictions on land use and job creation,” said PLF’s Brandon Middleton. “But the federal government is stifling job-creating projects by failing to act on its own conclusion that the VELB should be delisted.”
Brandon M. Middleton
M. Reed Hopper
A prime example is the predicament of Bob Slobe, whose North Sacramento Land Company owns property adjacent to American River Parkway and California Route 160 in Sacramento. The land is zoned for offices which he hopes to build. “But the VELB listing stymies any plans to develop Bob Slobe’s property,” Middleton continued. “Mr. Slobe’s land is within the critical habitat zone for the VELB, so he can’t disturb any of the bushes where beetles live – without being forced to pay a massive, unaffordable sum of money to buy and preserve habitat elsewhere.” So the VELB listing stops jobs from being created, said Middleton.
“Mr. Slobe’s vacant parcel also has attracted large numbers of transients, who set up camps on the property,” said Middleton. As the Sacramento Business Journal reported in a 2003 story, the property became a dumping ground for abandoned cars and bicycles, stolen copper wire, and dangerous waste, such as syringes.
“All these problems arose on Mr. Slobe’s property despite his aggressive and continuing efforts to prevent it,” said Middleton.
Dubious pesticide restrictions – with potential economic harm for farmers and other landowners – have also been triggered by the listing. “The EPA recently entered into a settlement with environmental groups that restricts use of numerous pesticides in VELB habitat areas,” said Middleton. “This is another example of the tremendous distortion of policy and diversion of resources caused by this unnecessary listing.”
VELB listing complicates flood protection
“The feds’ unjustified delay in dropping the VELB from the ESA protected list is eating into the budgets of reclamation districts that protect the people and service the economy in the Sacramento Valley,” said Middleton. “These are the agencies responsible for flood control, drainage, and irrigation activities within the Sacramento Valley. In recent years, these districts have been forced to devote significant amounts of money and human resources to VELB mitigation projects, when their work impinges on VELB and its habitat. In other words, the unnecessary VELB regulations make it harder for these vital agencies to focus on their core missions of flood control, drainage, and irrigation management.”
Petitioners: Landowners and water-related agencies harmed by unnecessary regulations
In submitting the delisting petition, PLF attorneys represent a number of organizations that are harmed, or have members who are harmed, by the federal government’s continued listing of the VELB as “threatened,” even when the federal government itself has concluded that the listing is unwarranted.
The petitioners include:
Reclamation District No. 108
Reclamation District No. 784
Reclamation District No. 1500
Levee District One
Sacramento River West Side Levee District
Knights Landing Ridge Drainage District
California Central Valley Flood Control Association
North Sacramento Land Company
Sacramento Valley Landowners Association
Butte County Farm Bureau
Fresno County Farm Bureau
Sacramento County Farm Bureau
Solano County Farm Bureau
Yolo County Farm Bureau
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Pacific Legal Foundation is the leading public interest legal organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, in courts across the country. Among PLF’s noteworthy victories: The federal court ruling that led to the bald eagle being removed from the ESA list. A brief video about PLF’s history and mission includes comments by former United States Attorney General Edwin J. Meese III.