Environmental activists are threatening to sue the Obama administration if it doesn't list hundreds of new animal species as endangered.
The Center for Biological Diversity, a leading activist group focused on Washington policymaking, filed a formal notice Tuesday of its intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to take action to protect 417 plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act.
The animals slated for review include everything from the poisonous eastern diamondback rattlesnake to the coastal flatwood crayfish.
Many of the petitions were made by the group and its members dating as far back as 2008.
The agency is legally required to finish its work on the petitions over a 12-month period on whether or not to provide protections to an animal. "Long delays in protection of species under the Endangered Species Act have been a persistent problem for decades: At least 42 species have gone extinct waiting for protection," the group said in issuing its intent to sue.
"Delayed protection can be deadly for species already on the brink of extinction," said Noah Greenwald, the group's endangered species director. "The longer we wait, the more difficult — and expensive — it becomes to save them.
"Simply put, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to be acting more quickly to decide which species will be protected so the recovery process can begin," Greenwald said.
But business groups don't see it that way. A coalition of public land groups, ranchers and the cattle industry said the group's demands would move the country in the wrong direction and would stifle land development.
"Attention should be placed on creating real recovery goals and delisting species when they are no longer considered endangered, rather than overwhelming the agency with paperwork," said Ethan Lane, executive director for federal lands for the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
He called the threat to sue a move by "radical environmental groups" to force the administration to act.
The cattlemen's association said the activists are doing the opposite of what endangered animals need to survive by "placing arbitrary listing-decision deadlines that leave no time for sound research and science-based decisions." "This is precisely why the Endangered Species Act is broken," Lane said.
He said groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity are trying to force a political agenda onto the Fish and Wildlife Service "through litigation abuse," while what is really needed is Endangered Species Act reform to allow the wildlife service "the autonomy necessary to prioritize species conservation according to need, rather than political agenda."