By: Jessica Medeiros Garrison
The answer is not the punch line in a legal comedy. Unfortunately, it is the recurring, Groundhog Day-like reality playing out at the Department of the Interior. Once the staid agency most known for preserving our national parks, Interior now has made a more infamous mark for cozying up to green, special interest ideologues bent on destroying jobs and economic growth through a tactic known as “sue and settle.” It’s the antithesis of the rule of law, and Republican Attorneys General are on the front lines fighting it.
Here’s how the scheme operates. Big green groups, such as WildEarth Guardians, petition the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), organized under Interior, to review the status of certain wildlife species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). When FWS does not meet its very short, congressionally-mandated deadline for review under the ESA, the environmental activist groups sue to force a decision. Instead of defending the suit, FWS settles with the group by setting up a timetable to decide if the species are endangered or threatened. The settlement precludes Fish and Wildlife from considering a species a “candidate species,” which subjects it to an annual review based on certain criteria but does not place them on the endangered or threatened list. It ignores the process mandated by Congress for a transparent review and public comment. As a kicker, the settlement sweeps in many species that were not part of the original petition.
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