Environment
2:37 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

Environmental Groups Plan to Sue Feds Over Endangered Species Protection

The Florida panther has been on the endangered species list since 1967.
The Florida panther has been on the endangered species list since 1967.
Credit Larry Richardson / fws.gov
When the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service quietly turned over its authority to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission last year, Florida became the only state with the power to green-light activities that harm its most vulnerable species without federal review.

That was welcome news for developers, but not so great for environmental groups.

Today, the Center for Biological Diversity and Conservancy of Southwest Florida filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government, asserting that the transfer of power violates the federal Endangered Species Act. 

“The Endangered Species Act is the nation’s most effective law for preventing species extinction, in part because it prohibits unauthorized harm to wildlife. Turning over the responsibility to authorize harm to the state would be a disaster,” said Center for Biological Diversity attorney Jaclyn Lopez in a written statement. Added Conservancy of Southwest Florida President Andrew McElwaine, "This agreement is part of a larger agenda to remove protective regulations under the guise of efficiency. Federal oversight of endangered species is less likely to be influenced by politics, is more open to the public and brings expert scientists to the table, all of which is of benefit to Florida’s most at-risk wildlife species." McElwaine contended that the effects of environment protection, or lack thereof, extend far beyond the endangered animals. “Diverse wildlife is one of the things that make Florida attractive to visitors and residents,” McElwaine said. “When we protect wildlife, we are protecting our quality of life and ensuring economic vitality.”  If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not negotiate a settlement within 60 days, the groups are cleared to file their lawsuit, the Tampa Bay Times reports.