WASHINGTON (CN) - The Secretary of the Interior is illegally refusing to protect 39 threatened and endangered species, including 11 kinds of tarantulas and 15 species of bats, Friends of Animals claims in court.
Friends of Animals sued Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe in Federal Court. The Connecticut-based group claims the officials failed to do their nondiscretionary duty to issue findings on its petitions to list the species as threatened or endangered.
The lawsuit lists 10 species of sturgeon, including the Baltic and Bastard varieties, 11 tarantula species, 15 species of bats, including the greater monkey-faced bat and the Negros naked-backed fruit bat, along with the Ridgeway hawk, the Flores hawk and the Virgin Islands coqui.
Friends of Animals says it petitioned Fish & Wildlife to protect tarantulas in 2010.
"These tarantulas are all threatened by destruction of their forest habitats in India," the complaint states. "Collection for the pet trade is another threat, as is intentional killing. Additionally, there are inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms in place to ensure these species' survival."
Many people play with their pet tarantulas.
"There's no problem so long as you don't pinch them," one tarantula lover told a Courthouse News reporter as he let his spider crawl up one arm, around his neck, and down the other arm.
Three years after the 2010 petitions were submitted, Fish & Wildlife has not issued mandatory 90-day findings or 12-month findings for the spiders under the Endangered Species Act.
Nor, Friends of Animals says, has Fish & Wildlife issued findings for the bats, which are threatened by habitat degradation and invasive species.
Ridgway hawks are being hunted by farmers who view them as crop pests, while the coqui - a tropical frog - is losing its habitat to tourism and housing developments.
"FoA frequently submits and monitors petitions to list species as threatened or endangered under the ESA, and the Secretary repeatedly fails to issue the required findings in a timely manner," the group says in the lawsuit.
The complaint adds: "The Secretary often fails to comply with statutory deadlines, only to issue the requisite finding before litigation can occur or be completed, thereby avoiding judicial review of the Secretary's failure to comply with her mandatory duties. FoA has filed, and will continue to file, a number of suits challenging the Secretary's delays in responding to citizen petitions. FoA can reasonably anticipate being subjected to the same delay in responses to future petitions."
Friends of Animals seeks declaratory judgment that the government violated the Endangered Species Act, and an order forcing it to announce its findings on the petitioned species within 60 days.
Friends of Animals is represented by Michael Harris of Lone Tree, Colo.
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