Sue-and-Settle Still a Fruitful Tactic

by Tripp Parks, Policy Analyst on October 27, 2015 - 11:50am

courtroomFor the past two years, we’ve documented how environmental groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and WildEarth Guardians (WEG), have employed the “Sue-and-Settle” tactic to force the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to make Endangered Species Act listing decisions. Their biggest success to date came in 2011, when they reached settlement agreements with FWS on a combined 878 species.

Under the terms of the settlement, FWS was required to make a finding on each species by a set deadline, diverting substantial FWS resources towards compliance with the settlement and away from actual species recovery. The Department of the Interior's justification for entering into the closed-door settlement agreement was to limit future listing petitions and litigation. If so, the result should have been a decline in petitions and lawsuits after 2011, but the reality is the opposite.

Over the past four years, there’s been an average of 31 petitions for species listings each year, and just last month CBD reached a settlement with FWS on 10 new species, setting more deadlines that will further divert FWS resources. 

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