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BLM contempt of court?

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May 11, 2003 06:29PM
Article Published: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 - 6:39:44 PM PST

Activists challenge Interior decision
Group: U.S. fails to protect species
By CHUCK MUELLER, Staff Writer
An environmental group threatened Tuesday to launch contempt-of-court proceedings against the U.S. Department of Interior, saying the government agency has violated federal court orders to protect the habitat of various endangered species.

"The department has announced it will not comply with 24 court orders to protect habitat of 37 endangered species,' said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity. "The department is cynically blaming a $1.9 million budget shortfall to delay the protection of these species on about 21 million acres of habitat.'

In California, the species include the Southwestern Arroyo Toad, California Red-legged Frog, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, the Lane Mountain Milk-vetch and Peirson's Milk-vetch.

The Lane Mountain Milk-vetch, a perennial with yellow spiked flowers, is found only at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, north of Barstow.

Mitch Snow, spokesman for the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service, said a lack of federal funds thwarts the Wildlife Service's ability to comply with court orders and settlement agreements related to species protection.

"Our analysis shows the court orders outstrip the money that Congress has appropriated to list critical habitat for endangered species,' he said Tuesday. "Under federal law, we cannot spend money that Congress hasn't appropriated.'

But Suckling said Congress granted the wildlife service 100 percent of its funding request this year, about $9 million, to protect endangered species.

"(Now) Interior Secretary Gale Norton says the department can't protect these endangered species because it doesn't have enough money,' Suckling said. "She purposely has starved the Fish and Wildlife budget to engineer a crisis to deny protection to the environment.

"It's a cynical game to avoid protecting wildlife and open space. Christmas has come early for the timber, mining and development lobby.'

But Dee Stapp, vice president of Public Lands for the People, is critical of environmental groups who use the Endangered Species Act to seal off vast areas of land from mining, grazing and development.

"As it is written, the act allows any citizen to get any species listed (as endangered or threatened) whether it is endangered or not,' she said. "They often don't use good science.'

Stapp, who owns a small-scale prospecting business in San Bernardino, said it is "devastating' to close extensive acreage that could be suitable for economic uses.

"It is costing hundreds of millions of dollars to remedy problems caused by environmental lawsuits,' she said. "It's time to bring a stop to this and bring back some sanity.'

Suckling said habitat loss is the primary cause of extinction of endangered species.

If the Interior Department does not advise the federal court it cannot comply with orders to protect habitat for designated endangered species, the Center for Biological Diversity will file a legal motion against the department for contempt of court, Suckling said.

Management "of critical habitat has proved to be remarkably effective,' he said. "Endangered species with critical habitat areas are more than twice as likely to be recovering (from the threat of extinction), and 13 percent less likely to be declining than those without it.'

BLM contempt of court?

katrina island 1524May 11, 2003 06:29PM

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