NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Using Endangered Species As An Anti-Development Ploy

April 20, 2001

According to the Interior Department, a very small number of environmental groups are filing a clutter of lawsuits under the Endangered Species Act. Many experts think saving species is of secondary interest to the groups. Their real aim is opposition to growth and development.

Interior spokesman Mark Pfeifle says, "They're using the critical habitat to basically shut down growth. No hunting. No fishing, No grazing. No farming. No suburbs. No development. Nothing."

  • Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service is currently contending with nearly 80 lawsuits and has been served with notices of 95 more -- which in all affect some 1,000 species.
  • The Department already has 507 animals and 763 plants on its endangered list -- and the backlog of candidate species under review numbers nearly 250.
  • Among organizations filing the suits are the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Conservation Council for Hawaii, the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project and the Biodiversity Legal Fund.
  • When these groups win a case, their attorneys fees are paid for by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The department conservatively estimates that in cases involving the listing of species alone, plaintiffs have collected more than $1 million since 1995 -- a figure that doesn't include the cost of government time and resources that went toward fighting those claims.

In order to curb such abuses, President George W. Bush has proposed that Congress enact a one-year moratorium on private lawsuits aimed at adding new entries to the endangered list.

Source: Editorial, "The Species Litigation Act," Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2001.


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