Interior/WildEarth Guardians agree to analyze backlog of candidate Endangered Species

The list of species the federal government has been more or less forced to consider for ESA protection has been growing longer and longer over the years, and yet it acts very slowly, complaining that species are being added at too fast a rate. Much of the agency’s tiny budget was eaten up responding to new petitions and defending itself from lawsuits trying to force it to consider various species for ESA protection.

Yesterday, however, it was announced the Department of Interior had made a deal with WildEarth Guardians to analyze 251 species in the backlog over the next 6 years. Officials say this will help clear the backlog. In the last four years WildEarth Guardians was filed about 700 petitions to list species. With this deal, Guardians will be allowed to file only up to ten new ESA petitions a year. Guardians will also ask to have all its pending lawsuits in the matter dismissed.

There is no assurance the government will list any species in the agreement, although it is likely quite a few will end being listed. Some, such as the greater sage grouse, are much more controversial than others. The sage grouse is controversial because it has been heavily impacted by the politically potent livestock sector as well as oil, gas, and wind development.

This is an agreement only with Guardians and does not prevent any other group from filing petitions.

Under the ESA, it was not supposed to work this way. The law’s supporters expected the environment-conscious government would discover and list species on its own accord with citizen petititions to list a species serving only as backup. The reality has been much to the opposite, however.

This deal has yet to be approved by a federal judge.

Interior Dept. strikes deal to clear backlog on endangered species listings. By Juliet Eilperin. Washington Post.

Wild Earth Guardians web site on the agreement

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More on 5-12-2011. The deal includes the sage grouse. Felicity Barringer at the New York Times tells how the sage grouse got to where it is. A Bird’s Convoluted Conservation Odyssey


  1. Ken Cole Avatar

    This is how all agencies become useless. Reduce their funds until they can’t achieve their purpose then they become mired in legal suits. It fits the agenda of the anti regulators exactly. You see it with the FDA, EPA and a suite of other agencies that industry doesn’t like. It serves those who don’t believe in government and who don’t like regulation. They don’t want it to work so they defund it and exclaim “See! Government doesn’t work!”. There’s always a fool in the room who believes them.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      It also doesn’t help when the agencies are filled with people who are promoted for being resistant to actually doing what the law requires because of pressure from industry. Those who strive to do the right thing don’t last long or are passed over for promotion or moved around. Even those who don’t do the right thing are moved around so that they never see the consequences of their actions and keep blindly doing the same thing.

    2. Salle Avatar

      Here’s a book that explains a lot, actually nails it, about how/why things are the way they are and why the public have such a jaded view of the government’s role in their lives:

      How the 1980s Explain The World We Live In Now — Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

        This is absolutely correct, IMO. The election of Ronald Reagan began the long decline of America from a wealthy, relatively happy country, moving in the right direction to today’s massively unequal, politically divided, economically and environmentally drained husk.

      2. Salle Avatar

        I think Reagan did the same for the state of Calif., transformed it into a relative “police state” back in the late 60’s and into the mid 70’s.

  2. Wolfy Avatar

    Ken Cole nailed it. There is little incentive to do good in gov’t. A lot of hard working people in agencies like the Forest Service get bashed while “rising star-types” steal the credit and get promoted. And it all goes back to Reagan and Reaganomics – suck the life out of agencies that interfer with corporate or military progress while pormoting those that will enforce the corporate/congressional will. I don’t have an answer; many of the gov’t agencies are really mean places to work – like their corporate counterparts. At least in the Forest Service, we used to be like family, not so much anymore.

  3. Wolfy Avatar

    Oh, I forgot to mention that many groups/NGO’s like NWTF, RGS, Trout, Whitetails, and Quail Unlimited are now running the gov’t agencies. So this news is on par with the current state of things.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan