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How lawsuits target endangered species laws

In lieu of going through the federal bureaucracy, many environmental groups are now taking the government to court in the hopes of convincing a judge to force a listing.

The formal process to get a plant or animal listed as an endangered species has become too bureaucratic for many environmental groups that are instead taking the government to court in the hopes of convincing a judge to force the listing.

Researchers at Southern Utah University and Utah State University conducted a study published in March that included examples of this litigious strategy and its impact on the economy.

A pest to many ranchers in the west, the Gunnison Prairie Dog is part of a court settlement last year with numerous environmental groups. The federal government must soon make a final determination on whether the critter will be listed, although critics say there is little evidence it is actually in danger of extinction.

When environmentalists threatened to sue the government to force the listing of the sand dune lizard in Texas, oil and gas companies voluntarily entered into conservation agreements this year with private landowners to avoid onerous government restrictions they said would cripple the economy.

??As far as I am concerned, it is Godzilla,? said Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Paterson. ??It??s the biggest threat facing the oil business in memory.?

It??s not just conventional energy development that faces threats from endangered species. Alternative energy projects, including wind farms, also are threatened by potential listings.

??Horizon Wind Energy proposed a 300-megawatt-capacity wind farm in an area of Wyoming considered sage grouse habitat,? the report said. ??But this proposal was met with opposition from (WildEarth Guardians), the American Bird Conservancy, and other environmental groups, forcing Horizon Wind Energy to indefinitely suspend its plans for the wind farm.?

Written By

Audrey Hudson is an award-winning investigative journalist whose enterprise reporting has sparked numerous congressional investigations that led to laws signed by Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She won the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi award for Public Service in 2009 for her report on dangerous drug experiments by the federal government on war veterans, which prompted internal investigations and needed reforms within the Veterans Affairs Department. The report also captured first place for investigative reporting by the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a finalist of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences Webby Awards for news and politics. Her breaking stories have been picked up and followed by major news publications and periodicals, including Readers Digest, Washington Monthly, and The Weekly Standard, as well as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Washington Post. With nearly 20 years of experience in Washington as a newspaper reporter and as a Capitol Hill staffer for Western lawmakers, she will now lead Human Events?? coverage of energy and environmental issues. A native of Kentucky, Mrs. Hudson has worked inside the Beltway for nearly two decades -- on Capitol Hill as a Senate and House spokeswoman, and most recently at The Washington Times covering Congress, Homeland Security, and the Supreme Court. Audrey??s email is AHudson@EaglePub.Co