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Dwindling Kangaroo Rat to Get Territory Upgrade

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) - A federal judge quadrupled the habitat area assigned to the San Bernardino kangaroo rat, restoring acreage to 2002 levels, after finding no justification for the United Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to decrease the endangered species' protected space.

The Center for Biological Diversity joined two other environmental groups in challenging the agency's decision to limit the kangaroo rat's critical habitat based on its estimate of the species' core population.

Under the agency's new guidelines, the habitat would not include 751 acres of the Santa Ana river known as the Wooly Star Preserve Area, 267 acres on the former Norton Air Force base, 1,265 acres within the Cajon Creek Habitat Conservation Management Area, 595 acres within the Western Riverside Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan and 39 acres near the San Jacinto River.

U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson found that the agency had not done enough research on the rat population to make an accurate determination of what its designated habitat should be.

The agency even conceded in its opening brief that the San Bernardino kangaroo rat "occupies varying types of habitat, and there is not enough available data at the present time to differentiate between them to determine what about a certain type of habitat supports the essential or physical biological features," Thompson found.

"Lack of data does not excuse an agency from complying with statutorily listed criteria," the ruling states.

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