Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, The Sierra Club Delta Chapter, and the Louisiana Crawfish Productions Association-West sued the department Thursday over what it says are violations of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Endangered Species Act.
“This subspecies of the American black bear is genetically unique and deserves continued protection from ongoing threats to its survival,” Misha Mitchell, a staff attorney for Louisiana-based nonprofit Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, said. “In spite of its genetic distinction, low population numbers and ongoing threats to its habitat and survival, the Department delisted the Louisiana black bear, removing critical federal protections.”
The department delisted the black bear in 2016 and removed protections for the legally designated habitat critical for its survival all without any scientific basis, the groups say in their 34-page lawsuit.
“At the time of the Louisiana black bear’s listing as a threatened species under the ESA, the subspecies had been declining for the past 200 years and probably numbered fewer than 150 individuals,” the complaint filed in District of Columbia federal court states. “The listing likely saved the bear from extinction.”
Louisiana Crawfish Production Association President and plaintiff Jody Meche is a third-generation Cajun crawfisherman who has lived and worked in the Atchafalaya Basin his whole life. The delisting of the black bear is harmful to his business and the environment, he says.
The Atchafalaya Basin, located in south central Louisiana, is the nation’s largest river swamp.
“The Louisiana black bear is a very important part of the ecosystem in the basin. The presence of the bear in the Atchafalaya Basin, particularly the lower portion, is a major attraction for our members who are outdoor enthusiasts,” said Mitchell.
“We work to protect the basin and its wildlife habitat for future generations as well, not just this one,” Mitchell said.
The Department of the Interior did not respond to a request for comment.