Prodded by PLF, feds take first step to dropping Valley beetle from ESA list
Sacramento, CA; August 22, 2011: There is "substantial information" that the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle (VELB) no longer requires protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued that finding last week – in a long-overdue response to a formal petition by Pacific Legal Foundation seeking de-listing of the beetle. The FWS finding is the first step in the process of removing a species from ESA coverage. Now the agency will engage in a formal review to decide, finally, whether to delist the beetle.
PLF client Bob Slobe on his land inhabited by the VELB.
The one-inch beetle is found up and down Central California, from Redding in the north to Bakersfield in the south. Its listing as "threatened" under the ESA since 1980 has hampered the productive use of land and the building and maintenance of flood-control levies.
A 2006 study sponsored by FWS itself found that the VELB no longer needed special protections and should be taken off the ESA list. But the agency failed to act, and the beetle stayed on the list.
Therefore, last September, PLF submitted a formal petition to start the delisting process. PLF attorneys represented a broad coalition of landowners, businesses, farmers, and flood-control agencies harmed by unnecessary and unjustified ESA regulation of the beetle.
Federal officials were required by law to respond to PLF's petition by last December, with a determination as to whether delisting might be warranted. But that deadline came and went, and no response was issued. Because of the agency's delay, PLF attorneys sued FWS this past April to force it to comply with the law and respond to our petition. Finally, the response has been issued, indicating, as noted, that there is "substantial information" supporting delisting.
PLF attorney Brandon Middleton issued this statement after FWS' announcement:
"PLF prodded federal officials to take the first step toward the delisting of this beetle, but it is regrettable that we had to go to court to get the bureaucracy to act.
"The government's own study, in 2006, found that the beetle is thriving and doesn't need to be on the ESA list. It's the economy that is endangered, and these ESA regulations for the beetle are part of the problem. They're depriving thousands of people in Northern and Central California of the productive, job-creating use of their property.
"Also, beetle regulations are making it harder for flood-control and reclamation districts to build and maintain levees, so public safety and public budgets are compromised.
"At long last, there may now be light at the end of the tunnel for all the victims of these unjustified beetle regulations. But federal officials have been dragging their feet inexcusably. Their response to our petition was due back in December. By delaying so long, they have undermined confidence in the government's concern for our broken economy and high unemployment rate. Going forward, they're on notice. If they stall on their final decision on beetle delisting, make no mistake – we'll see them in court."
The parties on the petition that PLF submitted last September are as follows:
- 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
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation (www.pacificlegal.org) is the leading watchdog 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.