Lawsuits Challenge California Coastal Species Protections

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Posted by on March 31, 2005 at 05:59:24:

A conservative legal foundation has filed twin federal lawsuits challenging federal protections for 42 species - 15 of which live only in shallow seasonal pools across much of California and in far southern Oregon.

The Pacific Legal Foundation says the critical habitat designations, which together cover 1.5 million acres in 42 counties, drive up housing costs and taxes and harm private property rights without doing much to save species.

The suits, filed simultaneously Wednesday in Fresno and Sacramento federal courts on behalf of building and agriculture associations, challenges the critical habitat designations of 27 species - of which 21 are plants - and requires the agency to correct habitat areas for 15 vernal pool species.

The suits claim the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's designations are haphazard and impose "huge social and economic costs" on property owners. The Sacramento-based legal foundation has filed other suits challenging what it says are flawed Endangered Species Act protections for hundreds of species.

Center for Biological Diversity policy director Kieran Suckling responded that research shows species with designated critical habitat are twice as likely to recover. He accused the foundation of shopping for a conservative judge by filing similar suits in two federal courts.

The critical habitat provisions in particular have been criticized by the Bush administration and others who say changes are needed in the Endangered Species Act. The wildlife service itself has said the habitat designations often are of minimal value to protecting species.

The suits were filed on behalf of the Home Builders Association of Northern California, the Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation, California Building Industry Association and California State Grange.

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