Description: Action to compel response to a petition to revise the critical habitat for Mount Graham red squirrel to include lower elevation mixed-conifer forest.
Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 04/14/2021 Order Download Parties' stipulation granted and action dismissed with prejudice. 04/12/2021 Settlement Agreement Download Stipulated settlement agreement filed by the parties. Fish and Wildlife Service Agreed to Deadline for Response to Request for New Critical Habitat for Mount Graham Red Squirrel. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Secretary of the Interior, and two environmental groups agreed to a settlement resolving the groups’ lawsuit to compel a 12-month finding on their petition to revise the Mount Graham red squirrel’s critical habitat. The FWS agreed to submit a 12-month finding for publication in the Federal Register by July 29, 2021. The finding must indicate how the FWS intends to proceed with the requested revision of the critical habitat designation. The plaintiffs alleged that the squirrel’s currently designated critical habitat had been degraded or destroyed by climate change-influenced factors such as wildfire and drought, and that revision of the designation to include lower-elevation areas was essential to the squirrel’s survival. 11/30/2020 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Conservation Groups Asked Federal Court to Compel Decision on New Critical Habitat for Mount Graham Red Squirrel. Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the District of Arizona seeking to compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to make a 12-month finding on the plaintiffs’ 2017 petition to revise the critical habitat for the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel, which the complaint alleged are found only in the Pinaleño Mountains in southeast Arizona. The complaint further alleged that “essentially all” of the critical habitat designated in 1990, which consisted of high elevation spruce-fir forest in the Pinaleño Mountains, “has been degraded or destroyed by telescope construction, wildfire … , drought, insect outbreaks, and other ecological changes influenced by climate change.” The plaintiffs contended that lower elevation mixed-conifer forests were now essential to the survival of the Mount Graham red squirrel. The plaintiffs previously sued to compel a 90-day finding on their petition, after which the FWS published a finding in September 2019 that revision of critical habitat might be warranted. In this new suit, the plaintiffs asked the court to enforce the Endangered Species Act mandatory deadline for making a finding on a petition after a positive 90-day finding.