An article was published today in the E&E Reporter entitled "Petitions for new species protection wobble balance in FWS settlement with environmentalists."  The article, authored by Allison Winter, provides an interesting lens through which to view the ongoing struggle between the federal wildlife agencies and environmental groups.  In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), Wild Earth Guardians, and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into a settlement agreement, which was subsequently approved by a federal court, obligating the Service to, among other things, make final listing decisions on over 200 species over the next 6 years.  (See July 14, 2012 Post by David Miller.)  Recently, however, CBD submitted a new petition requesting that the Service list 53 additional species located all across the United States.  The article, which recites this history, highlights the conflicting expectations of the Service and CBD as a result of the 2011 settlement.  Particularly, the Service’s hope that the settlement would forestall future petitions by CBD, in contrast with CBD’s clear intent to move forward without regard for the Service’s existing obligations and budgetary constraints. 

It will be interesting to see how the expectations of CBD and the Service evolve over time, and what the unintended consequences may be of CBD’s continued efforts to move listing decision forward.  For example, will there be litigation if the Service fails to comply with a deadline under the Endangered Species Act?  And if so, how will this play politically.  There have already been calls in Congress to eliminate the ability of a plaintiff to recover attorneys’ fees when an environmental plaintiff prevails on a claim to compel compliance with a listing deadline.  Some have even suggested a whole-sale rewrite of the Endangered Species Act is necessary.  Will this be the straw that broke the camel’s back?  Only time will tell.