(CN) – The 9th Circuit tossed environmentalists’ bid to have the giant Palouse earthworm listed as threatened or endangered, calling the evidence for protected status “limited and inconclusive.”
The Palouse Prairie Foundation, the Palouse Audobon Society, the Friends of Clearwater and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have the giant Palouse earthworm listed as an endangered or threatened species.
The groups say the worm, which can grow up to 3 feet long, has been found only four times in the past 110 years and is threatened by agriculture, urban sprawl and invasive earthworms.
After a 90-day “finding” period, the agency refused to list the worm because the environmentalists’ petition lacked sufficient evidence to support protective listing.
The environmentalists challenged the agency’s decision in district court, arguing that the government had applied the wrong standard in its finding process.
The district court upheld the agency’s decision, and the 9th Circuit rejected environmentalists’ appeal.
“Evidence regarding the population of the giant Palouse earthworm is limited and inconclusive,” the court wrote. “The petition failed to identify a single well-designed study determining the current or historical population and range of the earthworm.”