WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2016 -  An environmental group is seeking to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to act on petitions to protect 417 animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act. 

“These 417 species and hundreds of others are being dangerously neglected for no other reasons than bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of political will,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which has filed notice to sue the agency.

According to the notice, the petitions have been filed over the last eight years. The agency has issued initial findings determining that ESA listings may be warranted for all of the species, but subsequent actions required of the agency are now as much as seven years late, the notice says. 

The agency has 90 days to decide whether the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted and 12 additional months to determine whether listing is warranted, not warranted, or “warranted but precluded.” The agency hasn’t issued timely 12-month findings for any of the 417 species, according to the notice. 

“Accordingly, you are in violation of the law and have abrogated your duty to ensure that protection of endangered species occurs in a timely manner thereby avoiding further decline and increased risk of extinction,” the notice says. 

Watching for stories about threatened species? Sign up for an Agri-Pulse four-week free trial subscription to stay on top of this and other ag, rural policy and energy issues.

The notice names species from across the country, including Florida sandhill cranes, the Oklahoma salamander, golden-winged warbler, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and the San Joaquin Valley giant flower‐loving fly.

Ethan Lane, executive director of the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s federal lands program, said such legal action forces arbitrary deadlines on the Fish and Wildlife Service without helping species recover. 

“Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity are attempting to force their agenda on FWS through litigation abuse. Substantive ESA reform is needed now to allow FWS the autonomy necessary to prioritize species conservation according to need, rather than political agenda,” Lane said. 

The focus should be on “creating real recovery goals” and delisting species that are no longer endangered “rather than overwhelming the agency with paperwork,” said Lane.