No time being wasted in federal case
The environmental groups WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity filed federal lawsuits against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday, January 20. The groups argue that the federal agency violated the Endangered Species Act when it declared the Gunnison sage-grouse as a threatened species, rather than endangered. In November, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper warned Fish and Wildlife that the state would also sue over any level of federal protection for the bird, saying it would complicate state-led voluntary protection. In December, the attorney general filed a required 60-day notice of intent to sue.
The environmentalists’ action was taken as soon as possible. According to Commissioner Jonathan Houck, the actual lawsuit was filed the day after the required 60-day waiting period expired.
Houck described the filing of the lawsuit as expected and “simply next steps on their part.”
A Denver Post article dated January 21 states that while “lawsuit blizzards drain Fish and Wildlife Service resources that otherwise could be devoted to recovery work… the environment groups say legal action is the only way to compel action.” The same article referenced WildEarth Guardians biologist Erik Molvar as saying, “If we’re unwilling as a society to stop destroying habitat that rare species need to survive, then we should stop pretending we care about wildlife.”
According to Houck, since Gunnison County and the state waited longer than the environmental groups to file their letter of intent to sue Fish and Wildlife, their ability to file their actual lawsuit would not come until mid February. Houck says the county is still working to determine if they will file individually or join the state.