Three state agriculture associations filed a lawsuit Monday against the federal government for not considering how listing almost two million acres in California as “critical habitat” could affect small business, agriculture, and local government, according to a Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) press release.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declared 1.8 million acres in central and northern California as “critical habitat” in 2016 to protect two species of frog and one species of toad listed under the Endangered Species Act, The Sacramento Bee reports.
“[Declaring land critical habitat] has the economic impact of putting you out of business is what that reality could be,” Tuolumne County Farm Bureau president and local rancher Shaun Crook told The Sacramento Bee.
Each species is listed as “threatened,” not “endangered,” giving the agency more flexibility in devising a conservation plan and applying regulations. Specific rules for the area haven’t yet been announced, allowing normal practices in the area to continue, The Sacramento Bee reports.
A species is usually listed as endangered soon after its habitat is declared critical, however, automatically initiating the strictest protections of the act.
The PLF, a nonprofit legal group that specializes in property-rights issues, said the FWS’s designation is illegal.
“Bureaucrats imposed these habitat decrees without due regard for their effect on the lives and livelihoods of rural residents,” senior attorney M. Reed Hopper said in a press release. “This willful blindness wasn’t just callous, it was illegal, a violation of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.”
The Regulatory Flexibility Act was passed to ensure regulations did not unjustly stifle economic activity, or “fit regulatory requirements to the scale of the businesses, organizations, and governmental jurisdictions subject to the regulation,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Center for Biological Diversity attorney Jenny Loda criticized the lawsuit as “a mean-spirited attack,” and said practices like ranching and farming destroy the animals’ habitat, putting them at risk of predators, according to The Sacramento Bee.
“Other habitat management, like livestock grazing in some areas, has an impact, and of course climate change and drought can impact them as well,” Loda said.
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